German company Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and Indian company Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited have signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the construction of a new class of Indian submarines. The project came about as Germany’s defense minister visited India and the Indo-Pacific region last week, following a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to India in February to forge closer ties with the region.
Under the terms of the agreement signed June 7 in Mumbai, India, the two companies plan to work together on the construction of the new non-nuclear submarines. TKMS will be responsible for engineering, design and consulting support, while Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders would handle construction and delivery.
The ships would be built in India in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in Inda” initiative. TKMS noted that there would be “significant local interest” in construction. Officials noted that building the boats in India would also help keep construction costs lower.
Officially, the MoU is to examine a construction project that is still subject to an official tender process by the Indian government. However, it is widely believed that they have agreed to build at least four ships together, with media reports estimating the deal to be worth more than $5 billion.
During his trip to the Indo-Pacific, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius highlighted the agreement on closer cooperation between Germany, India and other key partners in the region. Chancellor Scholz also referred to the need to develop closer ties between Germany and India and announced plans for new German legislation to support this process. Pistorius said they would push ahead with Germany’s moves and urged Delhi to follow the example of Australia and Japan and forge closer ties with Germany.
According to Pistorius, India has expressed interest in supplying six German-made submarines. “This could become a flagship project,” said Pistorius after the meeting with his counterpart, which was also attended by representatives of the German defense industry.
TKMS emphasizes that it worked with India on the construction of four HDW Class 209 submarines back in the 1980s. The first and second of these submarines were built by the then company HDW in Kiel, the third and fourth by Mazagon Dock Ship Builders in Mumbai. All four ships have been successfully entered into the Indian Navy’s TKMS Notes and continue to serve as the front line in the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet based in Mumbai. However, the project ran into corruption allegations, ending cooperation between the two countries.
“The boats we built in the 1980s are still in use today. We are very proud of this and look forward to continuing to make a contribution to India’s national security in the future,” said Oliver Burkhard, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.
The new agreement provides for conventional submarines with air-independent propulsion. The Indian Navy currently has 16 conventional submarines, but 11 of these are each over 20 years old. They also charter a nuclear submarine from Russia.
Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders launched the fifth in a series of Scorpene submarines being built as part of the Make in India initiatives in 2021. The fourth submarine Velva was delivered to the Indian Navy in November 2020. India wants to further modernize its fleet and add newer technologies through the deal with Germany.