Underscoring the growing Indo-French naval cooperation, French shipbuilders Naval Group and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Goa on Tuesday agreed to extend their already close cooperation in the field of underwater signal resolution improvement.
In Brest, during the Sea Tech Week 2022, the two entities signed an agreement to collaborate in joint research aimed at improving the analysis of data collected by underwater sensors, using neural systems and Artificial Intelligence.
Indo-French naval cooperation is entering the strategic realm. While only two of the 40 warships being constructed for the Indian Navy are being built in foreign shipyards, several warships that ostensibly bear a “Make in India” imprimatur — such as six Scorpene submarines built by Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai — carry the fingerprints of French shipbuilders, such as Naval Group.
In partnership with Naval Group, French defence electronics giant, Thales, is also competing to sell India marine and underwater systems such as sonars and the heavyweight F-21 torpedo, which will form the main armament of the Scorpene-class submarines.
Naval Group won the contest for supplying the Indian Navy with 98 heavyweight torpedoes, having quoted the lowest price for its F-21 torpedo when the bids were opened in late-2020. However, the contract has not been signed yet.
India was the “featured country” in the Sea Tech Week 2022 exhibition in Brest. This is being seen as an opportunity to broaden the research and development cooperation between Naval Group and the IIT Goa.
The two entities signed an agreement as part of the GOAT (Goa Atlantic cooperation in Marine Science and Engineering) programme, initiated during the Indo-French Knowledge summit in 2019, for exchange in education, research and innovation in the field of marine science and technology.
Within the framework of this cooperation, specific study by Indian researchers with French technical experts will be conducted to extend the understanding of the technologies, in order to improve future industrial applications, including underwater surveillance, submarine imaging and drones.
At a broader level, France sees India as its biggest potential customer for submarines — both conventional and nuclear. In September 2021, Naval Group lost a $90 billion Australian contract, signed in 2016 for building 12 Shortfin Barracuda submarines.
Instead, the US and UK undertook to provide Australia with nuclear propulsion technology as incentive for joining the new AUKUS grouping, featuring the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Now it appears that France senses an opportunity in India in the submarine space. It manufactures both nuclear and conventional submarines, and that meets India’s immediate requirement for six of each. America does not build conventional submarines and, therefore, does not meet India’s dual requirement.