New Delhi: One of India’s oldest submarines, INS Sindhukesri, is on her way to Russia for a second Major Refit and Life Certification (MRLC) because the Navy doesn’t enough boats. The Indian submarine fleet is aging with most having done about 20 years or more and have gone through at least one life extension.
The original 30-year submarine plan to acquire 12 submarines – six boats from the West and another six from Russia – and use the technology to design and build an indigenous submarine failed to take-off because of the HDW submarine scam. As a result the Navy has had to repeatedly extend the life and continue using old boats.
The Navy needs a minimum of 24 conventional boats to maintain a Minimum Force Level (MFL) but has only about 13 boats. Of the 13, only about half the boats are available for operations. The rest are used sparingly and kept as war reserves.
INS Sindukesri was commissioned into the Navy in February 1989. The MRLC is likely to cost the government about Rs. 1,000 crore and take about two years. The Navy has permission to extend the life of six submarines – four Russian-made and two German – all acquired between late 80s and early 90s – but it hopes the Scorpene class submarines, Kalvari Class conventional submarines, will be joining the fleet.
The first of the Kalvari class – diesel electric submarines designed by the DCSN France and being built at Mazagaon Docks – is undergoing sea test and if all goes well it will be inducted into the Navy later this year. Sources said the first boat has now gone for static dive trials – a crucial test where stationary submarine dives into the sea. The Kalvari class was originally designed to join the Navy in 2008 but was delayed because of protracted negotiations.
“We hope to get the follow-on boats in quick succession, in which case the Navy may not extend the life of the old boats,” a senior Naval officer told NDTV and added that “with series production chances are Navy will get a fresh submarine every nine months after the first is inducted by end of this year.”