The government is all set to roll out the process for a Rs 60,000 crore submarine programme for the Indian Navy, seen as crucial to counter China's growing undersea prowess and its build-up in Indian ocean region.
It is set to be the first defence acquisition project to be launched under the ambitious 'Strategic Partnership' model finalised last month which aims to rope in leading private players for production of major military platforms in the country.
The Defence Ministry is likely to issue the Expression of Interest (EoI) for the project in the next few days, to kick start the process for mega deal, sources said.
The project is being considered critical to counter the rapid expansion of China's submarine fleet. The Navy has been pressing the government for clearing the project.
Engineering conglomerate Larsen and Toubro and Reliance Defence are the only private firms eligible to participate in the P-75 I programme, said another source.
Defence PSU Mazagon Dock Ltd is also in contention for the project, touted as one of the biggest in recent years.
The government will subsequently initiate the process to shortlist the foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for the project based on laid down norms in the strategic partnership model.
Six Scorpene-class submarines are currently being built under 'Project 75' of the Indian Navy. The submarines, designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
The project P-75 (I) will be a follow-on for Project 75. A total of six submarines are to be built under the P-75 (I) project.
Under the SP model, select private firms will be engaged to build military platforms like submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign entities.
A 49 per cent FDI cap has been kept for setting up ventures under the strategic partnership model for production of defence platforms and the companies will be in control of Indian entities.
As per the framework, to manufacture major defence platforms, the select Indian companies will require tie-ups with OEM for transfer of technology (ToT).