May 16, 2012

Temporary Rundown in India's Submarine Numbers

Scorpene underway
From The Times of India, August 29, 2009, comes this brief report of the weakening condition of India submarine strength vis a vis China and Pakistan:

"Scorpene project will cost Rs 2,000cr more NEW DELHI: India will have to soon shell out well over Rs [ about o.02 US$ X 2,000 crore X 10 million = US$400 millio?] more to French armament companies if it does not want its ongoing mammoth Rs 18,798 crore project to construct six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai to come to a grinding halt.

The Scorpene project, under which the first submarine was to roll out by December 2012, with the others following one per year thereafter, is already running two years behind schedule, as was first reported by TOI.

"Our submarine force-levels need to increase...there is no doubt. We have lost a lot of time (in the Scorpene project),'' says Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

Admiral Mehta, who retires after 42 years of service on August 31, has reason to be worried. India's underwater combat arm will left with only nine out of its present fleet of 16 diesel-electric submarines -- 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and two virtually obsolete Foxtrot -- by 2012.

The number will further dip to just five in 2014. This when Pakistan is now looking to induct three advanced Type-214 German submarines, equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) to enhance their operational capabilities, after inducting three French Agosta-90B submarines, with the last one PNS Hamza even having AIP.

China, on its part, has a staggering 62 submarines, with around 10 of them being nuclear-propelled, and at least one Xia-class and two Jin-class being SSBNs (nuclear submarines with long-range ballistic missiles).

As reported earlier in this blog India has one indigenous submarine launched and two more under construction. However these will only become operational in around 2012 to 2016. The Akula II Chakra/Nerpa (and another envisaged) will be training only till at least 2011 even if India effectively acquires it from Russia.
India wishes to maintain clear dominance over Pakistan but the temporary decline in quantity and quality of India's submarines means that dominance might only be slight until around 2014.
China is different with a strong lead. It will take perhaps 10 years for India to reduce that lead. With the three smaller and two larger submarines of the Arihant Class India is aiming to build a substantial strategic nuclear deterrent aginst China. At the same time the Arihants are likely to be multitasked as attack submarines [torpedo tubes fitted?] to destroy other Pakistani and Chinese submarines and surface shipping.