French Barracuda Project’s Utility To India

India can look to France for design and technologies to make low-enriched uranium cores for its nuclear submarines.

On his recent visit to France, India’s chief of naval staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, was given a detailed presentation by his French hosts on the Barracuda-class, its latest nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), the first of which is expected to be commissioned next year into the French navy. This assumes importance for a number of reasons. India plans to make six SSNs apart from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), the first of which—INS Arihant—is operational and the next in class, INS Aridhaman, has been launched recently. India is also looking to make conventional diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) under project P75I after the current programme to make six French Scorpène submarines, being constructed at Mazagon Docks.

This is where the potential of exploring the Barracuda lies. The French are developing two versions of the Barracuda—nuclear-powered for its navy and diesel electric for Australia, after winning a $50 billion contract for 12 boats named Shortfin Barracuda. As India is looking to make both conventional and nuclear attack submarines, the design commonality offered by the Barracuda will help keep construction, operational, maintenance and training costs low.

The Barracuda is designed with pump-jet propulsion instead of the conventional propeller, which will make the submarine quieter than propeller-driven ones. The pump-jet-propelled submarines are also faster and easily manoeuvrable. The conventional version of the Barracuda will have a vertical launch system to launch cruise missiles, a requirement for India’s P75I.

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