Navy plans to upgrade eight underwater ships

Navy plans to upgrade eight underwater ships

5 subs passed their expiry date, others at fag end of warranty

Navy plans to upgrade eight underwater ships

In the aftermath of losing the service of two of its 10 Kilo-class submarines in a span of seven months, the Navy is planning to upgrade the remaining eight underwater ships in order to increase their service life by at least another 10 years.

Commissioned between 1986 and 2000, the Russian-made submarines have a life of 25 years. At least five of them had passed their expiry dates while several others are towards the fag end of their warranties.

“We want to upgrade four Kilo class submarines and two HDW submarines, which are even older vintage,” said a Navy officer.

Even though the Navy headquarters is yet to finalise the cost estimates, upgrading one of these submarines, INS Sindhurakshak – commissioned in 1997 – at Zvezdochka Shipyard in Russia cost Rs 815.66 crore. Unfortunately, within months, the submarine exploded and sank off Mumbai.

The cause of explosion is still unknown till the boat is salvaged and inspected by engineers and navy officers, completing the board of enquiry.

Within six months, INS Sindhuranta – commissioned in 1988 – becomes inoperable following a fire in its third compartment that killed two officers and injured seven others.

India’s underwater arm is having a depleted strength, restraining the Navy’s blue water capability. The first Scorpene submarine, under construction at Mazgaon Dock in Mumbai is expected to be ready only in 2016. 

The remaining five are scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in every nine months after the first one.

While the Scorpene is delayed by four years, it is the delay on the second line of submarine known as P-75I that remains a matter of consternation for the Navy. More than four years after “acceptance of necessity” was issued, the defence ministry is yet to issue a global tender (request for proposal) for P-75I, under which six more submarines will be built.

The Navy had discussions with 4-5 major shipyards of the world to finalise the RFP requirement. 

In December  2013, Defence Minister A K Antony said based upon the Naval headquarters proposal, Defence Acquisition Council took a decision that P-75 I project will have 4 submarines (out of six) built within the country (3 at Mazgaon Dock and one at Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam, on transfer of technology) while two others will be built in a collaborator’s yard abroad.

The defence ministry, however, is yet to issue the tender as the approval from the finance ministry and the Cabinet committee on security for the project, costing upwards of Rs 50,000 crore is due. 

“We will enhance the life of some of the operational submarine till P-75I takes off,” said a naval officer.