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Induction of Vela and India’s Submarine Capability

The fourth submarine of the Project – 75, Yard 11878 – Vela was delivered to the Indian Navy, 09 November 2021.

The submarine would soon be commissioned into the Indian Navy and enhance the Indian Navies capability.

The Indian Navy role for the submarines for missions including area surveillance, intelligence gathering, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and minelaying operations.

The P75 Scorpene-class submarines are armed with six torpedo launching tubes, 18 heavy weapons, tube-launched MBDA SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles and precision-guided weapons as per Naval Technology. The weapons are carried in weapon launching tubes and can be easily reloaded at sea.

A review of India’s present and future submarine capability with the induction of Vela is as given below-

India’s Submarine numbers

India’s overall conventionally powered submarine requirements are said to be 24 in number. Presently the Indian Navy is fielding 15 submarines – 8 Sindhughosh or Kilo class, 4 Shishumar or HDW class and 3 Kalvari or Scorpene class. Of these the Sindhughosh and Shishumar class are either undergoing or will undergo refit. With induction of Vela the numbers will go up to 16.

In addition there are at present two nuclear powered submarines from the Arihant class which are ballistic missile subs.

Another nuclear powered submarine is leased by the Indian Navy from Russia and will be a successor to Chakra.

India plans to field six SSBN and six SSK or hunter killer nuclear powered submarines in the future.

India’s Conventional Submarine Potential

The main determinants of submarine potential would be weight of carriage, stealth and duration of submergence.

The Sindhughosh class has a displacement of 3000 tons and operational period of 45 days.

The Kalvari class has a displacement of 2000 tons and operational period of about 50 days

The Sishukumar class has a displacement of 1850 tons and operational range of 13,000 to 15,000 kms with an operational period of 50 days.

The Sindhughosh and Sishukumar submarines are of the 1990’s vintage and thus their submerged capability is considered to be limited. This would require the submarines to surface frequently for recharging the batteries by running diesel motors which may render them vulnerable to detection.

Submarine Requirements

Based on the role assigned for submarines and the number of mission based deployments undertaken by the Indian Navy numbering seven as per reports of 2018, there would be acute pressure on the submarines available to the Navy in case at least one is to be deployed for each maritime deployment.

As one submarine is deployed, there would be a similar number that will be required for maintenance, refit and other tasks.

The overall projection of 24 was possibly made based on the premise that if there were seven to eight mission based deployments, two out of three subs could be deployed for other tasks as well as refit etc.

As of now only two Kalveri class subs are to be delivered to the Indian Navy which will take the overall numbers to 18 still short by six.

The first of the Project 75 (I) subs is not likely to be inducted by the end of the decade at best. Thus the Indian Navy submarine fleet will remain under stress in the coming decade plus



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