NEW DELHI: India will finally commission its first new conventional submarine in July-August after a long gap of over 17 years, while the second one will begin its sea trials off Mumbai this week. This comes as a strong booster shot for Indian Navy, which is trying to retain its traditional underwater combat edge over Pakistan, even as Chinese submarines are making regular forays into the Indian Ocean Region.
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Wednesday said INS Kalvari (tiger shark), the first of the six French diesel-electric Scorpene submarines being built under the Rs 23,652 crore "Project-75" at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai, will be inducted into the force after extensive sea trials in July or August.
The second one, INS Khanderi, in turn is slated to begin its long sea trials from Thursday. The Navy is currently grappling with just 13 ageing conventional submarines, with just half of them operational at any given time. India also has two nuclear-powered submarines, INS Arihant and INS Chakra, but the latter does not have nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles because it has been acquired on lease from Russia.
Asked if India had influenced Sri Lanka's decision to not allow a Chinese submarine to dock at Colombo earlier this month, Admiral Lanba said, "We were not in touch with them (Sri Lanka) on this issue; they did it on their own."
As was reported by TOI earlier, the Indian Navy has tracked at least seven Chinese submarines entering the IOR, with nuclear and conventional boats alternating with each other, since December 2013. Incidentally, China has over 55 submarines, with at least eight of them being nuclear ones.
Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on "Building India's Future Navy: Technology Imperatives", Admiral Lanba said the Navy was also keen to soon launch "Project-75-India", under which six new-generation conventional submarines are to be constructed in India, in the backdrop of the government now finalizing the "strategic partnership" policy.
The Scorpene project has, of course, faced huge time and cost overruns. INS Kalvari, for instance, was to be ready by 2012, with the other five coming by 2017. Now, with the third submarine INS Vela to be "launched" later this year, all the six will be inducted by 2020 or so.
Moreover, even the tender for Project-75-India for the six new stealth submarines, with both land-attack missile capabilities and air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance, is yet to be even floated.
When P-75I was accorded "acceptance of necessity" in November 2007, its estimated cost was around Rs 50,000 crore then. Once the domestic shipyard and its foreign collaborator for this project are selected under the "strategic partnership" policy, it will take another seven to eight years after that for the first submarine to roll out.