By Captain DK Sharma (Retd)
Commissioning ceremonies of ships and submarines are rooted in naval tradition that is centuries old and signifies the moment when the vessel, all of the steel and manned by the Captain and his crew are eagerly looking forward to taking her to sea.
Khanderi, the second submarine of Project P75, is ready to be inducted into the Indian Navy. She is scheduled to be commissioned on Sept 28 Sep at Mumbai by defence minister Rajnath Singh. Khanderi carries forward the legacy of her namesake, a Soviet-origin Foxtrot class, which was India's second submarine and rendered yeoman service to the nation for 21 years before getting decommissioned in Oct 1989.
Yard 11876 was 'launched' and named as 'Khanderi' on 12 Jan 2017 and was put to sea soon after for her sea trials. She has since undergone comprehensive tests to validate her designed combat capabilities, which included weapon firings. Completion of all trials culminates in the formal delivery of the submarine by the builder-M/s Mazagaon Docks and Shipbuilders Limited to the User-The Indian Navy which the yard did last week.
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It may be recalled that the first submarine of the project-INS Kalvari, was commissioned on 14 Dec 17 by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Project, which began in 2005, involved significant Scorpene design and technology transfer from the French collaborators M/s Naval Group to our shipbuilding ecosystem. The consequent involvement of numerous Indian manufacturers makes the Project a true representation of the "Make in India" concept. The design incorporates modular construction technology in which the initial construction of submarine is undertaken in sections. These sections are joined together before putting the submarine to sea. The advantage of this technology is that it enables a faster and efficient pace of work during the construction phase.
Though being commissioned a few months behind schedule, it is reliably learned that the boat is in a much better state than her predecessor (combat role wise) and all her outstanding defects and trials have been completed. It may be recalled that Kalvari, the first of the class, at the time of commissioning had completed and achieved around 70-80% of what Khanderi has achieved. The boat has been tested at all possible permutations and combinations of the operational envelope up to the max designed limits/ depths.
Khanderi is a potent undersea combatant capable of operations spanning across the entire spectrum of Maritime Warfare. She embodies cutting edge undersea technology and compares favourably with the best in the world. She takes her name from a saw-tooth fish called "Kanneri" by the Koli fishermen community of Maharashtra. Yet another association of Khanderi with Maharashtra and Mumbai in particular, is the erstwhile Khanderi Island, 20 km south of Mumbai, in the Arabian Sea. The island, due to its strategic location, was once a fortress of Shivaji. It was later renamed as Kanhoji Angre Island after the great Maratha Admiral who too controlled it in early 18th century.
Regarded as a prestigious induction, INS Khanderi is amongst the most potent platforms to have been constructed in India. The new Khanderi carries forward the legacy of her namesake, a Soviet Foxtrot Class, which was India's second submarine and rendered yeoman service to the nation for 21 years. She was commissioned on 06 Dec 1968, under the command of late Commander MN Vasudeva, at the Soviet seaport of Riga. On 22 Apr 1969 INS Khanderi undertook her maiden voyage to India wherein she successfully navigated 80 nm up the Congo River-to become the first submarine to reach Matadi-the highest port in the world. Earlier attempts by the submarines of the US Navy, Royal Navy, and a few others had failed. The submarine proved her mettle in the 1971 war whilst deployed on the Eastern seaboard. After almost two decades of service, the sentinel of the deep was decommissioned on 18 Oct 1989.
After decommissioning, the fin of the submarine was unveiled on Aug 17, 1990, at the parade ground of INS Virbahu, Vishakapatnam and continues to inspire future generations thereon.
Construction of the new Khanderi, designated as MDL Yard 11876 commenced with the first cutting of steel on Apr 07, 2009. The submarine was initially constructed in five separate sections. The welding of these 5 sections into one were completed in November 2016, described as 'Booting Together'. The submarine was 'launched' and named as 'Khanderi' on 12 Jan 2017 by Dr (Smt) Bina Bhamre, wife of Subhash Bhamre, then defence minister by the traditional ceremony of breaking a coconut on the hull with an invocation in Sanskrit from the Atharva Veda to the Goddess Aditi. Khanderi was first put to sea on 01 Jun 2017. She has since undergone comprehensive sea trials to validate her capability to Float, to Move and to Fight. She has undertaken multiple torpedoes and missile firing to validate the fighting capability of the submarine. On completion of trials, the boat was delivered to the Indian Navy by MDL last week.
Khanderi is a potent Man o' War capable of offensive operations spanning across the entire spectrum of Maritime Warfare. She embodies cutting edge undersea technology and compares favourably with the best in the world. She has an overall length of 67.5 meters and a height of about 12.3 meters. The hull form, the fin, and the hydroplanes are specifically designed to produce minimum underwater resistance. Her 360 battery cells (each weighing 750 kg) power the extremely silent Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor. Her stealth is further enhanced through the mounting of equipment inside the pressure hull on shock absorbing cradles.
The submarine's undersea warfare capability comprises a cluster of integrated advanced weapons and sensors. The sonar suite enables long-range detection and classification. When identified, she may choose to engage the enemy by utilizing either missiles or torpedoes.
(Author is Ex-Spokesperson Indian Navy. Views expressed are personal.)