New Delhi. 16 December 2021. Delhi based firm Insighteon Consulting ran a two day wargame on “Future Dynamics Influencing Submarine Acquisition by India”. The war-game covered the period from Year 2021 to 2026, by playing out each stalemate situation and strategic risks/opportunities that can arise concerning India’s submarine acquisition initiatives.
Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) interviewed one of the participants of the war game , Cdr Pankaj Srivastava who has served in the MoD for the past 5 years and has been closely associated with the defence procurement policy and processes.
ADU. Cdr Pankaj Srivastava, you have recently retired from the office of Technical manager Maritime Systems at the Ministry of Defence, a job where you were responsible for preparing and placing tenders of ships and submarines etc. One point we have seen in the Insighteon wargame findings which is totally contrary to what we have been reading in the press, is that the timeline for issue of First of Class (FOC) submarine is likely to be by 2037 as compared to 2031. As an individual what is your opinion about this war-game finding?
Cdr PS. The wargame findings are based on the complexities of the present case which includes bid evaluation, AIP trials, assessment of the indigenisation roadmap and likely delays in negotiations and contract conclusion. The timelines of the previous cases of the submarine acquisition were also taken into account while making the assessment. Based on the discussions, it emerged that there are going to be delays and delivery of the First of Class submarine may happen well beyond 2031.
ADU. Again the press has been saying that there is a threat of a single OEM situation in the P 75 (I) project due to AIP conditions. Whereas the Insighteon war game brings out that the SPs are likely to have a choice of multiple OEMs to make their selection. Do you agree with this?
Cdr PS. Initialassessment of the war game participants was also that there could be a likelihood of a single OEM situation. However, during the discussions it emerged that lack of proven AIP may not result in restricting the participation of the OEMs. These OEMs may collaborate with other OEMs having proven AIP, resulting in a multivendor situation. Also, some of the AIPs are presently undergoing trials and depending upon on the timelines of the trials, some OEMs may include them in their offer.
ADU. The basis of making the SP model competitive was the government agenda of price discovery. The Insighteon wargame however brings out that the SPs will give priority to their share holders interests to protect their risks & liabilities, rather than negotiation of price. Therefore, will the competitive SP model fail to bring us a L1 product or the best submarine?
Cdr PS. Unlike any other defence procurement case, the risk of the SPs in this case is very high as the design is from the OEMs but the SPs are responsible for performance as well as life cycle support. Such high risks outweigh the profits and, therefore, the SPs would like certain amount of risk sharing by the OEM which could become a critical factor in selection of the OEM by them. Further, a competitive SP model is a business decision in which SPs have to safeguard their interests. In such a scenario, the SPs may tie up and submit offer with the OEM who minimizes their risks. This arrangement may not result in a L1 product or the best submarine available.
ADU. Why does the Insighteon wargame believe that additional Scorpenes will continue to remain an option to maintain force levels?
Cdr PS. Considering the complexities of the case, there are going to be likely delays in completion of the bid evaluation, trial evaluation and contract conclusion. If there is going to be considerable delays in contract conclusion or in delivery of the submarines, then depending upon the quantum of delays, the war game believed that the options for additional Scorpenes could be explored by MoD to bridge the Capability gaps.
ADU. The wargame brings out a finding that the user should be part of the selection process of the OEMs with the SPs. What is your opinion on this? Will this not need an amendment to the SP Policy?
Cdr PS. Being competitive SP model, the selection of OEM is likely to be based on the business decisions of the SPs. Also, amongst the two SPs, one has experience of building submarines with a foreign OEM while the other one has limited exposure in the field. In both the cases, the SPs were not involved with the selection of OEM or the design and the decisions were taken by the MoD. Therefore, to ensure good design, equipment fit and capabilities, it may be prudent for the user to get associated with the selection of the OEM. However, it may need an amendment to SP Policy as user decision would be affecting the commercial bid.
ADU. How do you think such wargames will benefit the policy makers and OEMs?
Cdr PS. In a long term complex project, there are many unknown aspects or situations which emerge with the time and it can be difficult for the decision makers to envisage them at the very initial stage. Conduct of Wargame with participants from varied background and experiences can help in bringing out all such situations and also the available options in a structured manner. Knowledge of the possible future situations, can help the decision makers in taking considered decisions for a project, which will eventually be beneficial to all the stakeholders.
ADU. Can you brief us on what you felt on the conduct of the war game?
Cdr PS. It was my first experience with the wargame and I am extremely impressed with the professionalism with which it was conducted by Insighteon Consultancy. It was interesting to see how new situations were carefully created and with the subsequent discussions and polls there were major shift in the initial rigid views of the Subject Matter Experts. I am sure the outcome of the wargame would be gainfully utilized by all concerned and I must thank Insighteon Consultancy for conducting wargame on such a complex project. I hope to be part of more such wargames in future.
As told to ADU