India to deploy 7-8 submarines against enemy forces.
This deeply blunts the country's underwater combat edge against Pakistan, which already has five relatively new conventional submarines and is angling to get six more advanced vessels from China. Beijing, of course, is leagues ahead with 47 diesel-electric submarines and eight nuclear-powered ones.
The INS Sindhurakshak disaster last week, which blew a big hole in the Indian Navy's operational capabilities, has further compounded the problems. Defence minister A K Antony admitted in Parliament on Monday that "extensive checks on weapon-related safety systems and audit of standard operating procedures (SOPs) on all operational submarines have been ordered''.
The minister also confirmed the "explosion" on board INS Sindhurakshak was due to the "possible ignition of armament'' in the vessel's forward section. TOI had last week reported that "inadvertent mishandling of ammunition'' on the submarine, which was all set to leave on an extended patrol with a full weapons load of 18 cruise missiles and torpedoes, had emerged as the most probable reason behind the sinking of the over 2,500-tonne submarine.
"The cause of ignition is, however, yet to be established. Visual and forensic examination would throw more light on the possible cause of ignition. This will be possible only after the submarine is afloat and de-watered,'' said Antony.
The minister, however, did not dwell upon the fact that the Navy is left with only 13 aging diesel-electric submarines - 11 of them over 20 years old - due to political and bureaucratic apathy in pushing long-delayed submarine construction projects under his watch.
Four of the 13 submarines - nine Kilo-class of Russian origin and four HDW of German-origin - are undergoing "a long refit'' to extend their operational lives. "Two kilo-class or Sindhugosh series submarines are at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd at Visakhapatnam, while two HDW or Shishumar-class vessels are at the Mumbai naval dockyard for the long refits," said a source.
Indian Navy does have one nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, taken on a 10-year lease from Russia last year, but it's not armed with nuclear-tipped missiles due to international treaties. INS Chakra can serve as a deadly `hunter-killer' of enemy submarines and warships with its 300-km range Klub-S land-attack cruise missiles as well as other missiles and advanced torpedoes.
Pakistan Navy, incidentally, is the first force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to have submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) in the shape of three French Agosta-90B vessels.
Conventional submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries. Bu those fitted with AIP can stay submerged for much longer periods to significantly boost their stealth and combat capabilities, somewhat narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines.
India, however, has even dithered in taking a decision to fit AIP in the last two of the six French Scorpene submarines being constructed for over Rs 23,000 crore at Mazagon Docks under "Project-75'', which is already running four years behind the original 2012-17 induction schedule. The first Scorpene will be delivered only by November 2016.
Similarly, the new programme, "Project-75India'', to construct six advanced stealth submarines, armed with both land-attack missile capabilities and AIP, is yet to even take off despite being granted "acceptance of necessity'' way back in November 2007. It will take over a decade for the first submarine to roll out under this project worth well over Rs 50,000 crore.
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|Publication:||The Frontier Star (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan)|
|Date:||Aug 21, 2013|
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