State of India’s submarine fleet

Source: By Man Aman Singh Chhina: The Indian Express

The Indian Navy’s dwindling submarine fleet got further depleted on 17 July 2022 with the decommissioning of INS Sindhudhwaj, a Kilo Class diesel electric submarine. What is the current status of the Indian submarine fleet and how it compares with neighbouring navies?

What is the life of a Kilo Class submarine?

INS Sindhudhwaj was in service of the Indian Navy for 35 years. It was commissioned upon acquisition from the Soviet Union in 1987 under a deal wherein ten Kilo Class diesel-electric submarines were purchased by the Indian Navy.

Kilo Class submarines have a life of 30 years though after refit they can remain in service for ten more years. At least three Indian Navy Kilo Class submarines got a second medium refit in a Naval shipyard in Russia a few years back. The strength of the hull and the state of repair of the propulsion system are some of the elements which decide whether a submarine is still fit to be put out at sea after completion of its shelf life and refits.

How many submarines are now in the Indian fleet?

There are now a total of 16 submarines in service in the Indian Navy, including one nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and seven Kilo Class submarines. All Kilo Class submarines will be decommissioned in the next few years as they come to an end of their service life.

Apart from the seven Kilo Class submarines, four are Shishumar Class submarines of German origin named INS Shishumar, Shankush, Shalki and Shankul and four Scorpene or Kalvari Class submarines of French origin named INS Kalvari, Khanderi, Karanj and Vela.

Two more Scorpene class submarines are expected to be commissioned into service by 2023. The Navy has one Arihant Class ballistic missile submarine and another one, INS Arighat, under production but its date of completion is not known.

What new submarine acquisitions are planned?

Six attack submarines were supposed to be built in India under Project 75I for which sanction had been accorded by the government in 2020 but nothing has come off the project due to issues of vendors with the qualitative requirements. As per latest reports, the government has extended the date for response to Request for Proposal till the end of this year in the Rs 40,000 crore project.

How many submarines do China and Pakistan navies possess in their fleets?

As per an estimate by the US Department of Defense, China operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines and 46 diesel-powered attack submarines. It is expected that People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will keep an operational strength of 60-70 submarines through this decade.

Pakistan Navy operates three Agosta 90B Air Independent Propulsion submarines and two diesel-electric Agosta 70 class submarines, all of French origin. It also has three midget-class submarines of Italian origin.

Pakistan has signed an agreement with China to supply eight Hangor Class submarines with four being built in China and four being built at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. The first of these submarines will be delivered in 2023 and the last in 2028.