1st Scorpene submarine to be commissioned soon

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on October 31, 2017

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Indigenous submarine production schedule goes for a toss

Cancellations and delays have bogged the Indian Navy’s plans to induct the Scorpene class submarine, a critical asset for the forces. Though the first Scorpene submarine Kalvari was delivered in September to the Indian Navy at the Mazagon Dock shipyard, its commissioning continues to be held over for one reason or the other.

The Navy could be looking to commission INS Kalvari next month, sources pointed out, timing it with the 50th year of Indian submarine operations. The Indian Navy’s submarine arm was founded in December 1967.

Revised schedule

Kalvari is named after the dreaded Tiger Shark, a deep sea predator, and the commissioning of the second Kalvari, holds special significance. The expected date is mid-November or end-November, said Navy officials.

The original schedule of delivery of the first submarine, manufactured by Mazagaon Docks in Mumbai with technology transfer from Naval (earlier DCNS) of France, was December 2012. The date has since been revised several times.

Despite the many delays and the absence of its primary weapon, the black shark torpedoes, the submarine's presence, whilst it underwent sea trials, emphasises India’s efforts at rejuvenating its indigenous submarine production programme, officials at Mazagon Docks pointed out.

30-year plan

In 2002, Mazagon Docks Ltd in Mumbai, was identified as the yard to construct the Scorpene submarines. Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Vice-President of the Indian Maritime Foundation, told BusinessLine that the genesis of the Scorpene submarine project, called Project 75, lay in the Defence Ministry’s 30-year plan for indigenous submarine construction, which was approved in 1999 by the Cabinet Commitee.

The plan was to have 24 indigenous submarines. Commodore Singh was involved in drafting the Navy’s 30-year submarine construction plan and the 15-year ship building plan.

The 30-year plan envisaged the parallel development of two production lines, Project 75 and Project 75 (I), each devoted to the manufacture of six submarines. During the first ten years, there was to be licensed manufacture of the submarines.

Officials said “the aim was to have the first production line by 2005 and simultaneously start work on the second production line. With two Indian submarine builders and two foreign submarine builder counterparts, with subs based on their design, India was originally supposed to build six subs by 2013-14.”

The Navy was intended to “evolve its own design based on the initial two sub designs” and by 2030, the Navy was expected to have 24 modern subs, with two fully functional production lines that would produce submarines every alternate year.

However, the entire project has been beset with growth spurts. There were several difficulties faced by Mazagon Docks in procurement of material from foreign vendors, which led to delays.

Though the Mumbai-based shipyard undertook augmentation of production capabilities, manpower, infrastructure and industrial means in a phased manner, the first Scorpene submarine has not yet been commissioned, 12 years after it was originally proposed.

Incidentally, the first Scorpene submarine has been named Kalvari, and is the second submarine with the same name.

The first Kalvari, commissioned in December 1967, was also the first submarine of the Indian Navy.

It was decommissioned on May 31, 1996, after 30 years of service.

The second Scorpene submarine Khanderi was launched in January 2017, and is currently undergoing sea trials. The third Scorpene submarine is Karanj, and is being readied for launch.

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Published on October 31, 2017
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