India steps up submarine induction as Chinese presence grows in region

The Indian Navy expects to induct two Scorpene diesel-electric submarines into service this year and launch a third submarine into water even as officials acknowledged the growing Chinese maritime presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The first of the Scorpenes, Kalvari, is expected to finish sea trials by May and is on track to be inducted before the monsoon. The second submarine Khanderi was launched into sea in Mumbai last week.

Khanderi will begin sea trials in March and the target is to complete them by December. The aim is to commission the second submarine this year,” Rear Admiral (RAdm) Mohit Gupta, Assistant chief of Naval Staff - Submarines said on Friday.

 

Monsoon gap

The commissioning of the Khanderi would be dependent on the monsoon as trials cannot be conducted during the three to five month period. In addition, RAdm Gupta said the third Scorpene submarine ‘Vela’ will be launched into water this year after the monsoons. He said the Vela has already been ‘booted up’, which means all the sections have been assembled.

India has contracted six Scorpene submarines from DCNS of France to be built locally with technology transfer. The Navy intends to induct all six by 2020.

Separately officials said the P-8I ong range maritime patrol aircraft, procured from the U.S., has been a major force multiplier and the Navy has been keeping track of Chinese “sub-surface movement”, which has increased in the name of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

“At least one Chinese submarine has been continuously deployed in the Indian Ocean while others are in movement to replace it,” defence sources said. However sources said there has been no confrontation of any sort.

“They just pass through and it is meant as a statement of their capability and reach. Each one is accessing the other’s strengths as of now,” sources added.

Early this week Admiral Harry Harris, Chief of U.S. Pacific Command said there has been “sharing of information regarding Chinese maritime movement in the IOR” between India and the U.S.