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India and Germany Partner to Build Conventional Submarines

India submarines
Launch of fifth vessel in India's current submarine class in 2021 (Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders)

Published Jun 12, 2023 6:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and India’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to lead to the construction of a new class of Indian submarines. The project came as Germany’s Defense Minister visited India and the Indo-Pacific region last week following an earlier visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to India in February as they seek to build closer ties with the region.

Under the terms of the agreement signed in Mumbai, India on June 7, the two companies plan to cooperate on building the new non-nuclear submarines. TKMS will be responsible for engineering, design, and consultancy support, while Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders would undertake the construction and delivery. 

The vessels would be built in India keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in Inda” initiative. TKMS noted that there would be “significant local content” for the construction. Officials noted that building the boats in India would also help to keep construction costs lower.

Officially the MoU is to explore a construction project which is still subject to an official Indian government tender process. However, it is widely believed that they have agreed to build at least four vessels jointly with media reports setting the value of the agreement at more than $5 billion. 

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius highlight the agreement on closer cooperation between Germany, India, and other important partners in the region during his trip to the Indo-Pacific. German Chancellor Scholz also cited the need to build closer ties between Germany and India announcing plans for new German laws to aid in the process. Pistorius said they were making process on the steps in Germany and urged Delhi to follow the model of Australia and Japan in forging stronger ties with Germany.

According to Pistorius, India has expressed interest in the delivery of six German-made submarines. "This could become a lighthouse project," said Pistorius after the meeting with his counterpart, which was also attended by representatives of the German defense industry.

TKMS highlights that it has previously worked with India building four HDW Class 209 submarines in the 1980s. The first and second of those submarines were built by the company then known as HDW in Kiel, and the third and fourth by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders in Mumbai. All four vessels were successfully commissioned into the Indian Navy TKMS notes and continue to serve as frontline assets in the Indian Navy’s Mumbai-based submarine fleet. The project however was mired in allegations of corruption and ended the cooperation between the two countries.

“The boats we built in the 1980s are still in service today. We are very proud of that and would be delighted to continue contributing to India’s national security in the future,” said Oliver Burkhard, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.

The new deal calls for conventional, air independent-propulsion submarines. The Indian Navy currently has 16 conventional submarines, but 11 of them are each over 20 years old. They also charter one nuclear submarine from Russia. 

Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders in 2021 launched the fifth in a series of Scorpene submarines being built as part of the Make in India initiatives. The fourth submarine Velva was delivered to the Indian Navy in November 2020. India looks to continue to modernize its fleet adding newer technologies through the deal with Germany.