The Indian Navy may place another order for Kalveri class submarines.

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The Indian Navy may place another order for Kalveri class submarines.

The Indian Navy is preparing to bury new acquisitions under Project 75 I and may repeat Project 75 orders to MDL with DRDO proven and tested air independent propulsion systems fitted into new submarines under “Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”

When Manohar Parrikar was India’s Defence Minister, he advised then-Navy Chief Admiral Robin K Dhowan that the Indian Navy should acquire three more Kalveri (Scorpene) class submarines rather than six new Project 75 I air independent propulsion equipped submarines. Because Admiral Dhowan did not agree, the options clause for Project 75, which was approved by the Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet in 2003, was revoked in September 2016.

On July 20, 2021, the Ministry of Defence issued a request for proposal (RFP) for six Project 75 I class submarines outfitted with AIP at a cost of 40,000 crore. Because it is typical for the Indian military-civililian bureaucracy to take at least 10-15 years to complete any large acquisition, the current Scorpene submarine line at MDL will go to seed with the next set of 75 I class submarines being built in the late 2030s with a fresh massive investment on submarine line. All of this appears to be about to change.

Indian Navy Submarine Force – Way Ahead

Meanwhile, the AIP-equipped submarines have been surpassed by the most recent Soryu class Japanese submarines, which have longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries with faster recharging capabilities. Because lithium-ion batteries have twice the storage capacity of ordinary lead acid batteries, the submarine’s range is significantly increased. Given that the French have shifted to nuclear propulsion and the Germans to lithium-ion technology in front of AIP submarine technology, the Modi administration will almost certainly end up with a single vendor option, with South Korea being the only country manufacturing AIP submarines. Simply put, by the time the Indian bureaucracy selects a vendor, the technology will be obsolete and surpassed by the quickly evolving Chinese PLA Navy.

With the PLA Navy rapidly advancing into the Indo-Pacific and the QUAD preparing to meet the challenge, the Indian Navy’s leadership is reconsidering its submarine options and may request that the Modi government repeat the order of Kalveri class submarines with DRDO proven and French Naval Group tested AIP systems fitted into the next six submarines. The Indian Navy’s long-term plan calls for the design, development, and building of three nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines, sometimes known as nuclear attack submarines or SSNs.

India currently has two nuclear-powered ballistic missile-firing submarines (SSBNs), with a third in the works.

The repeat order of Kalveri class submarines will ensure that Indian submarine building and machine tooling skills do not disappear once the final Kalveri class submarine is commissioned this year and MDL exports the same submarines to other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Africa. The solution is to quietly bury Project 75 I and build on the existing Project 75 with indigenous DRDO built AIP.The same AIP can later be put into Kalveri class submarines as part of a mid-life upgrade. Given that China launches six to ten warships each year, including submarines, India has no choice but to tackle the Indo-Pacific challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

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