Later this month Indian Navy will commission the second Scorpene class submarine –INS Khanderi in service. The submarine has successfully completed all trials and will be joining the Western Naval Command located in Mumbai. There will be another major event – the launching of stealth frigate under Project 17A at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). These are multi-role frigates and the first-of-its-kind warships being built in India and will be equipped with stealth features.
According to top sources in the Indian Navy, the ceremony will be held in the presence of the defense Minister Rajnath Singh, chief of the Indian Navy Admiral Karambir Singh and other top naval officers.
The first Scorpene-class submarine was inducted in service in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2017.
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India and France had inked a $ 3 billion contract in 2005 for the licensed production of six Scorpene-class submarines at MDL, under Project 75. The contract was between Naval Group, formerly known as DCNS of France and MDL, Mumbai.
This Kalvari-class Scorpene submarine will come with state of the art stealth technology and also has the ability to launch an attack on the enemy by using precision-guided weapon. “The attack which can destroy the enemy can be launched with torpedoes, tube-launched anti-ship missiles, from underwater or from the surface. And since it has stealth feature it will not be vulnerable to the enemy and will remain unmatched by other submarines,” explained an officer.
This class of submarine is not only the best in the world but it is designed in such a way that it can operate in all kinds of theatres of operation which includes the tropics too. It is also fitted with state-of-the-art communications which will help in interoperability with other components of the navy.
It also has the capability of undertaking different kinds of missions like anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare. And can be sent on a mission of intelligence gathering, mine laying, and area surveillance.
Sources in the Navy have also confirmed that the third Scorpene submarine INS Karanj has now reached the advanced stages of trial and on completion is expected to join the Indian Navy later this year or early next year.
In May this year, the fourth submarine, currently under construction at MDL and named `Vela' had touched water once all the outfittings were done. And the balance two – Vagir and Vagsheer submarines are still in various stages of construction at the MDL.
The strength of the submarines in the Indian Navy has slipped to just 15 from the 21 conventional submarines. Under the 30-year plan for the Project 75 six Scorpene submarines have to be procured, followed by additional six which to be built here in India.
The design for the frigates under Project 17A was completed in 2013. Both MDL and Kolkata based Indian Defense PSU Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) will be building these frigates.
To ensure that the private sector companies play an important role in the building of the frigates, almost 2100 MSMEs are also part of Project 17A. MDL will be making four stealth frigates while GRSE will be building three frigates. And it is estimated that the ship will be delivered in 2023.
Sharing his views on the delay of the commissioning of INS Khanderi, Commodore Anil Jai Singh (retd) said, “The commissioning of INS Khanderi is much delayed because of the Indian Navy very rightly insisted on all defects being settled before accepting the submarine. The delay in the delivery of Project 75 submarines which are running 5-7 years behind schedule is not only about the cost and time overruns but more significantly the compromise it has led to in our undersea warfare combat capability and the vulnerability this has exposed us to. Khanderi will hopefully, alleviate that to some extent.”
Explaining about Project 17A, Singh said that “ The Project 17A is an advanced stealth frigate of which seven are to be built - four in MDL Mumbai and three in GRSE Kolkata. These frigates are integral to our blue water power projection aspirations.”
Since there is limited docking facilities in Mumbai, the dry docking facility which has been added will help in not only in easing the existing constraints but also enable a faster turnaround of ships for operational deployments, he added.