India’s depleting underwater combat arm will get a boost with the commissioning of the fourth diesel-electric Scorpene submarine as INS Vela in Mumbai on Thursday.
Under the over Rs 23,000 crore `Project-75’ underway at Mazagon Docks with French collaboration for construction of six Scorpene submarines, the Navy has commissioned three vessels, INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi, and INS Karanj, till now.
The fifth and sixth, Vagir and Vagsheer, delivered over the next couple of years. The Scorpene project has faced huge time and cost overruns but it’s critical for the Navy. It is grappling with an old fleet of just eight Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines.
The Navy needs at least 18 conventional submarines. Six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), and four nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles (SSBNs).
But the long-pending over Rs 42,000 crore project to construct six new-generation diesel-electric submarines with foreign collaboration is yet to take off. Under this `Project-75 India’, the six new submarines will have land-attack cruise missiles. As well as air-independent propulsion (AIP) for greater underwater endurance. It will, however, take almost a decade from now for the first such submarine to roll out.
On the nuclear front, India currently has only one SSBN, INS Arihant, which is armed with short-range K-15 (750-km) missiles as of now. India has three more SSBNs under development, with INS Arighat now slated for commissioning next year after some delay.
The K-4 missiles, with a strike range of 3,500-km. In turn, will take at least one more year to be ready for induction. Countries like the US, Russia, and China have SSBNs with well over 5,000-km range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
China, which is expanding its naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region and already fields the world’s largest Navy, has 50 diesel-electric and 10 nuclear submarins. It is also set to soon begin supplying eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines with AIP to Pakistan.
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