NEW DELHI: THE BJP-led NDA government has dumped a naval project to procure heavy weight torpedoes. The project was approved by the UPA-II government months before the 2014 general elections.
Former Defence Minister AK Antony in January 2014 had okayed the Rs.1,800 crore deal to acquire 98 torpedos from a subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, which is under the scanner in the VVIP chopper scam.
“The global tender to procure 98 heavy-weight torpedos for navy’s submarine project has been scrapped and Request for Proposal in this regard is withdrawn,” said a senior official.
The deal to procure torpedoes has been mired in controversy over allegations of improper procurement process. On the basis of allegations raised by some Members of Parliament regarding irregularities in the selection process, Antony had set up a Special Technical Oversight Committee (SOTC) to look into the complaints. But in May 2013, SOTC submitted a report to the Ministry that gave a clean chit to the procurement.
Black Shark torpedoes, made by Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS), a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, had emerged the lowest bidder to arm the Scorpene submarines, the first of which will be handed over to the Navy by September this year.
The Navy had been pushing for it citing “operational necessity”. However, sources said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has now decided to go for an alternative.
Germa’s Atlas Elektronik had come second during the bidding and sources said the reason for it losing out was certain differences between the Germany company and the French firm, which is making the submarine in collaboration with MDL in Mumbai. If the issue is not resolved fast, the Navy will be inducting the first Scorpene submarine without its main anti-ship attack system.
But, sources claimed that the Scorpene class submarines’ have already been customised to integrate its fire-control system with the Black Sharks. Integrating another type of torpedo, will not only cost more but will also take more time, the sources said.
Six submarines are being built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd with technology from French firm DCNS under an over `25,000 crore project called P-75.