INS Kalvari, the first of six Scorpene diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs) on order for the Indian Navy, will be set afloat at Mazagon Dockyard Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai on Thursday. On April 6, INS Kalvari was floated out in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. With today’s event, the sea trials of INS Kalvari will commence and are likely to continue for the next 10 months until the commissioning of the submarine. The vessel is scheduled to be commissioned in September 2016.
The 66-metre-long INS Kalvari is part of a $3.6 billion contract signed by the defence ministry with French firm DCNS in October 2005 to deliver six vessels. The contract envisages construction of six SSKs under India’s Project 75 submarine construction programme at MDL under license from DCNS. While the first four are conventional submarines, the last two are to be equipped with the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, which will enable the vessel to stay underwater for longer.
The Defence Ministry has already stated that after INS Kalvari, the remaining five boats of the Project 75 would be delivered to the Navy by 2020 and “would form the core of the Navy’s submarine arm for the next two decades”.
According to IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships, INS Kalvari is armed with six 533 mm torpedo tubes that can deploy the SM-39 Exocet Block 2 anti-ship missile.
Against its requirement of 24-30 submarines, India currently has only 14 submarines: nine Kilo class (EKMs), four German-designed HDWs (SSKs) and one Akula class nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) on lease from Russia (since 2012). In comparison, China has 68 submarines and Pakistan, five; Pakistan is also in the process of acquiring another six submarines from China.
A Milestone..MDL’s 1st Submarine-Kalvari- separated from pontoon & set afloat at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai. Pic. Recent pic.twitter.com/bmyg8EWXMk
— Sitanshu Kar (@SpokespersonMoD) October 28, 2015
In answer to a parliamentary question, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had informed that the Navy has commissioned two submarines and de-commissioned five over the last 15 years. Last year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had said that it was “dismayed” at the “snail’s-pace” of commissioning naval vessels.
Adding the sheer low numbers of submarine strength is the vintage and operational availability of the existing fleet. More than half the submarines have completed 75 per cent of their operational lives and require greater maintenance and repairs to keep them serviceable beyond their operational lives.
With the commencement of sea trials of INS Kalvari today, it can be expected that the MDL will be able to supply the balance five SSKs also on schedule, once every nine month. A vital gap in the Navy’s submarine strength will then be filled, if not fully but substantially, by 2020.