By Gulshan Luthra
Panaji: Spain is offering to build ships and submarines for the Indian Navy in India with transfer of technology.
Spanish Ambassador Gustavo de Aristegui told India Strategic (www.indiastrategic.in) here that Spain has had a long tradition of seafaring, leading the way for European countries to the Asia-Pacific and the Americas centuries ago, and that Spain could rightly claim excellence in naval shipbuilding even today.
Hosting a reception on board the visiting Spanish combat supply ship ESPS Cantabria at Goa’s Mormugao Port, he pointed out that Spain’s state-run Navantia had collaborated with the French DCNS to build six Scorpene submarines at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL).
The Indian Navy, which is expanding with the acquisition of large ships like aircraft carriers, would need supply ships like the Cantabria, which is on a year-long voyage to display its technology and utility.
The double-hulled 19,500-ton Cantabria, designated a combat supply ship (CSC), is a well-designed and capable vessel with place for two large or three medium helicopters, 24×7 sensors and self-defence guns, 8,000 cubic meters of ship fuel, 2,000 cubic metres of jet fuel, 200 tons of fresh water and a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km). It can simultaneously refuel three ships.
Aristegui said that the Indian Navy was planning to build tankers to look after big ships like aircraft carriers and some LPDs (landing platform docks) like INS Jalashwa as also six more diesel-electric submarines with AIP (air independent propulsion).
The Spanish submarines, designated S-80, are using an innovative AIP system to charge fuel cells, similar to those in the US space shuttle programme.
Cantabria is a more than a tanker, a modern combat supply ship, and Navantia could cooperate in such vessels as well as the submarines and LPDs, the ambassador said.
Cantabria’s commanding officer, Commander Jose Luis Nieto, pointed out that his ship had left La Grana naval port on January 3 for 11 months’ deployment with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and will return home on December 21, spending 200 days of the period in the water. That itself demonstrates the capability of the ship.
The US Navy, which has the world’s largest ships in its aircraft carriers, generally deploys vessels for about six months at a time, Nieto observed, pointing out that Cantabria could comfortably sustain a mission of about one year.
Cantabria is totally computerized, and the captain can manage all its operations with one laptop from anywhere on the vessel by hooking onto its two main computers on the bridge. Every single door or cranes can be operated in real time, Nieto said, while showing the equipment on board to India Strategic analysts.
In today’s fast-paced operational scenario, a supply ship can be a much sophisticated combat support ship, and Spain would be happy to be involved from design to building stage, it was stated.
Senior officers of the Indian Navy and industry were invited to witness the technology aboard the Cantabria while the reception was attended by Flag Officer Commanding, Goa Area, Rear Admiral Balwinder S. Parhar, and other officers.
Navantia has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India’s Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which is already working with the Indian Navy in heavy engineering and has built parts of the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant and fast attack craft (FAC) built by the Goa Shipyard. Navantia and L&T are working jointly on building four LPDs like INS Jalashwa for amphibious military operations and disaster relief for the Indian Navy
L&T’s vice President and head of ship building, Rear Admiral (retd) K.N. Vaidyanathan, and general manager K. Sivaguru Nathan held discussions with the Navantia team on working together as and when the Indian Government issued a request for proposals (RfPs) or tenders. A representative of Spanish electronic warfare systems company Indra also took part.
Indra already has joint ventures with Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) for producing sophisticated telecommunications systems and radars for the Indian Navy.
Navantia’s commercial director for military ships Sofia Honrubia Checa flew in for a short visit to Goa to look at the possibilities in joint ship building. She expressed hope for joint hi-tech systems in the near future.
The company recently opened an office in New Delhi, where its representative Martinez Montes is working with the industry and the defence ministry to look at cooperative ventures.
Many members of Cantabria’s crew visited the festive beach town, enjoyed the pleasant weather, tasted Goan fish curry, and took home traditional Goan costumes and Indian musical instruments like tabla (drums). They said they would be happy to be back as and when bilateral projects mature.