News Column

Keeping eye on Pak, Modi to act fast to save India’s underwater fleet

June 3, 2014



Keeping eye on Pakistan and China, Indian Prime Miniter Narendra Modiís government will get cracking on a four-pronged strategy if it wants to rescue the country's underwater combat arm from sinking any further, Indian media reported on Monday.

Indian Defence ministry sources say the new political dispensation should ensure there are no further slippages in the ongoing project to build six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks, the long-delayed global tender for six new-generation submarines is issued, life extension for at least five ageing submarines is fast-tracked, and the long-term plan for nuclear submarines gets the requisite support.

The finance ministry is often blamed for being a "big obstacle" for military modernisation plans. But with Arun Jaitley straddling both MoF and MoD as of now, there is "hope" the "detailed action plan" for the submarine fleet will be swiftly cleared. Jaitley, on being asked by TOI if there was "a conflict of interest" in handling both the ministries, replied, "Well, I see it as supplementing of interest."

It is certainly required. Navy is down to just nine operational diesel-electric submarines, with another four stuck in long repairs and refits. All the 13 submarines are over 20 years old, while eight of them have crossed 25. India, in fact, is fast losing its underwater combat superiority over Pakistan, which has eight submarines, and falling further behind China with over 50.

For starters, there is the long-pending "Project-75India" to acquire six stealth submarines, armed with both land-attack missile capabilities and air-independent propulsion (AIP) for greater underwater endurance. Though this over Rs 50,000 crore project was granted "acceptance of necessity'' in November 2007, the global tender to select the foreign collaborator is yet to be even floated with the file being tossed between the two ministries.

"Since early-April, it's now again with MoF. The tender or RFP (request for proposal) can be issued only after first the MoF and then the cabinet committee on security approves it," said a source.

The urgency is required since it will take at least three years to select the foreign collaborator, and another seven to eight years after that for the first submarine to roll out. The first two submarines will be directly imported to save time, while three will be constructed at MDL in Mumbai, and the sixth at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam.

Then, there is the ongoing Rs 23,562 crore Scorpene project at MDL, already running over four years behind schedule. The first Scorpene is now slated for delivery by November 2016, with the other five rolling out thereafter every 8-10 months. The Rs 1,800 crore contract to buy 98 heavy-weight torpedoes to arm the submarines is also yet to be inked.

On the nuclear front, Navy wants three SSBNs (nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles) and six SSNs (nuclear-powered attack submarines but without ballistic missiles) in the long term.

The force currently operates only one nuclear-powered submarine, INS Chakra, acquired on a 10-year lease from Russia for almost $1 billion in 2012, but it's not equipped with long-range missiles due to international treaties.

India's first indigenously produced nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, is yet to head for extensive sea trials after its reactor went "critical" last August. Two follow-on SSBNs, one already named INS Aridhaman, are being constructed under this advanced technology vessel project.


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel



Source: Frontier Star (Pakistan)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters