Dismiss Notice
Welcome to IDF- Indian Defence Forum , register for free to join this friendly community of defence enthusiastic from around the world. Make your opinion heard and appreciated.

Subs vital to Navy’s future

Discussion in 'Indian Navy' started by Osiris, Jan 21, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

    Apr 15, 2010
    Likes Received:
    A little known event took place on December 9, 2010, when Indian Navy submarine Vagli was formally decommissioned in Visakhapatnam, after 36 years of glorious service. This decommissioning marked the end of a glorious era since INS Vagli was the last of the eight Soviet-origin Foxtrot (or Project 641) submarines to be decommissioned.

    From 1967 to 2010, apart from training Indian Navy anti-submarine forces, eight Foxtrots trained generations of Indian submariners who then went on to operate our first SSGNs (cruise missile submarines), the Charlie-class INS Chakra, the 10-Kilo or Sindhughosh-class subs, and the four German-Type 1,500, or Shishumar, subs. Indeed, some senior crew of our first SSBN (the yet to be commissioned INS Arihant, which may commence sea trials in 2011) and our first SSN (media reports mention an Akula-class SSN, the INS Chakra, will be commissioned in early 2011) would have received their basic submarine training on the legendary Foxtrots.

    The end of the Foxtrot era marks a new era of very low submarine force levels for the Indian Navy. It may be noted that in December 2010, the British government decided to drastically reduce the size of the UK military due to economic reasons. The last Royal Navy aircraft carrier (HMS Ark Royal) was prematurely decommissioned, along with its complement of Sea Harrier jet fighters, while the surface fleet was reduced to 19 frigates-destroyers, and the British Air Force is being downsized to six fighter squadrons by 2020. However, the British government has decided to retain its nuclear submarine force of four SSBNs (15,000-tonne Vanguard class), each of which can carry 16 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with a range over 8,000 km, and each missile can carry three to five nuclear warheads to destroy major cities. The UK also has two modern SSNs (8,000-tonne Astute class) and is building five more of the same SSNs; these SSNs can destroy enemy warships and submarines with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while they can also attack land targets with 2,200-km-range Tomahawk cruise missiles with conventional warheads. Even the US Navy has about 60 nuclear submarines, as compared to 10 aircraft carriers. In any case, given China’s experimental “game changer†— a land-based 1,500-km-range DF-21D “aircraft carrier killer†ballistic missile — the lesson is that the modern submarine is both the backbone and spearhead of a nation’s tactical and strategic capabilities, though the aircraft carrier will remain an important platform for most blue water operations. But some of its land-attack roles are being taken over by the American 18,000-tonne Ohio-class SSGNs (four in service with the US Navy), each of which can fire 156 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles (2,200 km range). Needless to say, the submarine is invulnerable to attacks by D-21D-type weapons.

    It is ironical that despite the Comptroller and Auditor General’s reports of 2008 and 2010 warning of severe depletion of Indian Navy submarine force levels, little has been done to remedy the situation, while China (60 conventional subs, seven SSNs, three SSBNs) and Pakistan (five conventional subs) continue to expand their submarine forces. Pakistan is purchasing four Chinese Yuan-class conventional subs (with air independent propulsion system), while China, by 2025, is expected to have a 100 conventional subs, a dozen SSNs and a dozen SSBNs. In stark contrast, our present ageing force of 14 conventional subs (10 Russian-origin Kilos and four German-origin SSKs) will be reduced to only four obsolete units by 2020 (two Kilos and two SSKs, which will also be phased out by 2025), along with the six “new†Mazagon Docks Limited (MLD, Mumbai) built Scorpene class subs.

    As per media reports, India’s 30-year submarine building plan, approved by the government in 1999, originally envisaged construction of 24 conventional submarines by 2030, in three phases. Unfortunately, Phase 1, i.e. the Scorpene submarine licence production line of six subs under Project 75 at MDL (Mumbai), will have the first Scorpene ready by 2015, while the contract for the second (Phase 2) licence production line, under Project 75 (I), may be signed only by 2014. The third phase, which envisaged construction of 12 indigenously-designed submarines, is nowhere on the horizon. Also, in addition to building the Arihant-type SSBNs, a second production line needs to be set up for SSNs. Hence, the nation needs multiple submarine production lines for conventional and nuclear submarines.

    Only a handful of nations today (France, Spain, Russia, China and a consortium of Germany-Italy-Sweden) are involved in building and exporting ocean-going blue-water-capable conventional submarines. Japan builds conventional submarines but not for export. Only five countries make nuclear-propelled submarines of the SSN and SSBN variety (the US, the UK, France, Russia and China). In addition, Iran, Italy and North Korea have built midget submarines of about 100 to 350 tons for “special saboteur operationsâ€.

    In 1982, India sent numerous officers and MDL workers to Germany for training in the construction of SSK submarines at great expense. Sadly, after the training of trainers (ToT) and construction of two subs at MDL, this expertise was lost, due to the HDW scam, and we are now painfully “re-learning†the art and science of submarine building with the Scorpene project signed in 2005.

    In 2010 the Russians introduced a “mono block†concept in their latest fourth-generation nuclear subs (SSNs and SSBNs) wherein the reactor and turbine compartment are in a single sealed unit, which is “plugged in†to the submarine. In case of any defect in the reactor or propulsion turbine, or the turbo alternators, the mono block can be quickly unplugged and replaced with another unit.

    Modern conventional and nuclear submarines are built in different pressure hull sections, with a typical submarine comprising five (conventional sub) to 12 (SSN or SSBN) sections, which are finally joined or welded together. The Indian government needs to urgently ensure that all assets in the public and private sectors are utilised. This will ensure that time and money are saved by building different sections of the submarine in different public and private shipyards, which are then integrated in a dedicated shipyard.

    Also, to ensure maximum foreign ToT in the sensitive submarine metallurgical, stealth, weapons, sensors and propulsion fields (e.g. in the 30 per cent direct offsets), it is essential that the present 26 per cent FDI limit is raised to 49 per cent to provide sufficient incentive to foreign equipment manufacturers.

    * Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page