Inside the cramped Scorpene class submarine ‘Karanj’ moored at Mazagon shipyard in Mumbai, technicians are busy preparing for sea trials ahead of delivery to the Indian Navy.
‘Karanj’ is the third in a series of six Scorpene submarines being built at the state-run Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders , India’s only submarine builder, with technology from French group Naval.
The first submarine ‘INS Kalvari’ was commissioned into the Navy on December 14, 2017, while the second ‘Khanderi’ will be added by the end of the year.
The fourth Scorpene ‘Vela’ has completed the ‘boot together’ and is in an advanced stage of outfitting. The remaining two are in various stages of outfitting at the fabrication facility.
In the normal course, it would have been impossible for an outsider to take a tour of Mazagon, let alone go inside a submarine. But a group of 25 journalists got the privilege as Mazagon Dock braces for a share-sale through an IPO later this month.
Mazagon’s submarine building capabilities is the priciest part of the value-proposition it is holding out to prospective shareholders.
Commander V Puranik, a general manager at Mazagon Dock, showed some of the basics including design, assembly, the state-of-the art platform.
Scorpene is one of the most sophisticated submarines, capable of undertaking multifarious missions including anti-surface ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying, and area surveillance. Its stealth capability gives it an invulnerability and the ability to launch a crippling attack using various precision-guided weapons.
“A submarine is a very potent weapon; it makes a huge difference in the geostrategic balance,” saidRajiv Lath, Director, submarine and heavy engineering at Mazagon Dock.
Mazagon Dock can build 11 submarines at a time. At the huge fabrication unit, the last two parts of Scorpene submarines 5 and 6 are being constructed. This work will be completed over the next three months.
The Scorpene project is the first of its kind where all the contracted submarines are built from scratch in India. In all the previous submarine programmes, the first few units were built abroad and the remaining in India.
“We will forget all that if we don’t get any more projects. By 2022, the last of the submarines will be delivered to the Navy. And, by 2025, the stealth frigates and destroyers will also be delivered. There is no visibility yet on further ordering,” he said.
Yet, it is hopeful.
The Navy plans to raise its fleet strength to 200 ships by 2022; so, there will be a large number of ships on order.
“If Navy wants a destroyer, they don’t have anybody else, be it open tender, strategic partnership, anything. If Navy wants submarines, do they have any other place to go?” asked Lath.
The P75 (I) orders for six submarines worth an estimated Rs 50,000 crore will come sooner or later, he signs off.