With a dismal underwater combat capability due to the tardy rate of acquisition of submarines, Indian Navy plans to oversee and fast-track all its submarine acquisition plans to match its fleet with that of its neighboring countries. To ensure the follow-up on Indian Navy’s submarine acquisition plan, Rear Admiral M T Moraes has been appointed as the new assistant chief of naval staff (submarines), a post in the Indian Navy which has resurfaced after many years.
The primary focus of the Indian Navy is the Project-75 India (P-75i) programme wherein the acquisition of six new stealth submarines, equipped with both tube-launched missiles for land-attack capabilities as well as AIP (air-independent propulsion) for enhanced underwater capability, is envisaged. The P-75i project is to the tune of $ 11.10 billion and was cleared by the Indian government in February this year. The global tender for P-75i project will be floated only towards end-2011 to vendors like Rosoboronexport (Russia), DCNS (France), HDW (Germany) and Navantia (Spain).The plan is to directly import two submarines from the foreign collaborator eventually selected, with the next three being built at MDL in Mumbai, and the sixth at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam under transfer of technology.
While Indian Navy has been anxious to get P-75i project rolling, the delay in the earlier programme, namely Project-75, is making matters worse. Project-75 precedes Project-75i and it involves construction of six Scorpene submarines being built at the state-owned Mazagon Docks in collaboration with DCNS of France. The P-75 submarine project has been lagging behind the original schedule. As per the revised schedule, the first submarine from the P-75 project is expected to be with the Indian Navy by 2015 and the last by 2018. Due to inordinate delays, this new schedule has pushed the delivery by three years, leaving the Indian Navy in a quandary.
Indian Navy has seen a steady decline in its submarine fleet lately and its ORBAT (order of battle) of submarines is down to 14 and some of them are on the verge of retirement. The existing ones include four Dr Gabler 1500 HDW/IKL designed submarines inducted between 1986 and 1994, and 10 Kilo-class double decked boats from Moscow, supplied between 1986 and 2000. The Indian Navy has acquired just two submarines since 1990. Of the ten Kilo-class submarines, the last, INS Sindhushastra (S 65), was commissioned in June 2000, as the fully converted submarine capable of firing Uran missiles. It has been assessed that the Indian Navy will have only five of its existing 10 Russian Kiloclass and four German HDW submarines by 2020. The older six Kilo- class submarines are over two decade’s old and reaching obsolescence.
Besides the submarines from the P-75 and P-75i, India is also set to get the Russian Akula-II class nuclear-powered submarine, K-152 Nerpa, to be rechristened INS Chakra, on a ten year lease by year-end. For the Indian Navy, the Nerpa submarine will fulfill the much-needed strategic edge as India’s quest for a nuclear submarine has undergone a long wait. The Nerpa submarine is considered crucial since it will fill the operational gap between now and the entry of the indigenously built nuclear-submarine INS Arihant. The 6,000 tonne INS Arihant is expected to enter the fleet of Indian Navy by 2012 and will be the real thrust and highlight of the naval fleet of submarines. Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had earlier announced India's nuclear weapon triad will be complete when INS Arihant enters the fleet.