India’s depleted underwater combat arm will finally get a much-needed boost when INS Khanderi, the second of the six French-origin Scorpene diesel-electric submarines under construction at Mazagon Docks, is commissioned later this month. The long-delayed 1,565-tonne submarine will follow INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene submarine that was commissioned in December 2017. Defence minister Rajnath Singh will be the chief guest at the function in Mumbai on September 28.
- The day will also witness the “launch” of the first of the seven stealth frigates slated for construction under Project-17A as well as the inauguration of an aircraft carrier dry dock at the naval dockyard in Mumbai.
- The Scorpene submarine programme called Project-75 is running over five years behind schedule, with the overall cost now also escalating to over Rs 25,700 crore. The remaining four submarines will be commissioned at regular intervals by 2022-2023.
- The Navy currently has just 13 old conventional submarines, only half of them operational at any given time, apart from INS Kalvari and two nuclear-powered submarines in INS Chakra and INS Arihant.
- The commissioning of INS Khanderi has been delayed by over a year since the Navy insisted it would induct the vessel only after all the glitches and problems that came to the fore during the trials were fully rectified by MDL and its French technology partner the Naval Group (DCNS).
- The submarine, which has a speed of 20 knots, are equipped with sea-skimming SM-39 Exocet missiles and torpedoes to undertake stealthy offensive operations against enemy warships.
- India needs at least 18 diesel-electric and six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) as well as four SSBNs (nuclear submarines armed with long-range ballistic missiles) to guard against the two-front threat scenario from China and Pakistan as well as achieve credible nuclear deterrence.
- It was only in June this year that the defence ministry finally began the process to shortlist potential Indian shipyards for the long-pending project to construct six new-generation conventional stealth submarines with foreign collaboration under the “strategic partnership (SP)” model as part of the overall “Make in India” policy.
- This submarine project called “Project-75 India (P-75I), which will cost at least Rs 50,000 crore, was first approved by the defence ministry in November 2007 but has been languishing in general politico-bureaucratic apathy, files and committees ever since.
- It will take around two years for the foreign collaborator-Indian shipyard combine to be down-selected for P-75I. Once the contract is actually inked, it will take another seven to eight years for the first vessel to actually roll out.