Indian Navy Special
Operational Gap
Submarines remain Indian Navy’s biggest challenge
The importance of submarines can never be overstated: its very presence in the Order of Battle is itself deterrence. For this reason, there should be concern about the numbers and technological limitations of Indian submarines. On the one hand, the numbers are fast depleting. On the other hand, the existing submarines lack the technological know-how to adjust their roles and missions to changing times: from operating alone to contributing to the land battle. Considering that the lifespan of a conventional submarines is 25 years, by 2010, most of the kilo- class submarines should be de-commissioned, bringing the strength, unless, reinforced well in time, to a total of five submarines. (It is another matter that for want of timely replacements, Indian defence services are usually forced to flog old weapon platforms). At present, the navy has two foxtrot class submarines of the Sixties vintage that have little operational value and are tasked for training purposes. Of the 10 kilo class submarines, the first, INS Sindhughosh (visited by FORCE team) was commissioned in April 1986 and the last one, INS Sindhushastra in July 2000. The navy also has four conventional (SSK), HDW- T1500 class submarines. Six Scorpene submarines are presently being built at MDL, Mumbai; the first ship is expected to join service only by 2012, thereafter one submarine would be commissioned each year.

Here then is the big challenge for the navy: how to move fast on its Project- 75, the 30 year submarine building plan (2000 to 2030) that was cleared by the government in July 1999 and is in two steps. Step one envisaged that six each western and eastern submarines be built in India. The second step implied that after the experience gained from the above, 12 submarines would be indigenously designed and built. Considering that the navy has already lost five years of Project-75, it has two options: One, to wait till six Scorpene have been built at MDL by 2017, and then to make six more submarines of the same type (till 2023) on the existing production line. If this approach is adopted, it would leave little time for the remaining 12 indigenous submarines to be built on time. Two, to start negotiations for the Russian Amur submarines; the private contractors Larsen and Tubro, which have facilities to build reactor hull in Hazira in Mumbai have already been short-listed for Amur construction in India, Amur is cheaper than Scorpene, will be built faster, and has the facility to fit the BrahMos cruise missile on board. The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta told FORCE that decision on the submarines would be taken soon. This is a welcome development.
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