India's oldest sub retires

Commissioned in August, 1974, INS Vagli was commanded by 23 officers in all major tactical exercises off both sea-boards and in the high seas. With its retirement, the naval submarine strength has come down to 14 ageing vessels out of which only 8-9 are operational at any given point of time.

The depletion in the submarine strength is one of India’s biggest strategic weaknesses straining the blue water ambitions. “For 17 years, we did not commission a single submarine. It remains one of our biggest weaknesses,” Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma admitted.

In 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to create two production lines for submarines with foreign vendors to achieve an indigenous design and manufacturing capability. While the first line to produce six French Scorpene submarines is operational at the Mazgaon Dock, the second line too received government approval recently.

Even though the first Scorpene submarine was to be delivered by 2012, there has been a delay due to teething problems, absorption of technology, augmentation of infrastructure at the dockyard and material procurement.

“The first Scorpene submarine is now expected in the second half of 2015 and the last one by 2018,” Verma said. INA Vagli was given a farewell at a function in Visakhapatnam.

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