When the visionary Manohar Parrikar was India’s Defense Minister, he advised then-Navy Chief Admiral Robin K. Dhowan to buy three more Kalvari (Scorpene) classes instead of six new Project 75 I submarines with air-independent propulsion.
Admiral Dhowan did not agree because of this, the options clause for Project 75, approved by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government way back in 2003, was canceled in September 2016, reported Hindustan Times a few days back.
The Ministry of Defense requested proposals (RFP) on July 20, 2021, to construct six Project 75 I class submarines with AIP systems at a total estimated cost of 40,000 crores.
The current Scorpene submarine line at MDL will go to seed in the late 2030s when a new significant investment in the submarine line is made. This is because it typically takes the Indian military-civilian bureaucracy at least 10-15 years to complete any large procurement. Seems like everything is about to change.
In light of the PLA Navy’s rapid expansion into the Indo-Pacific and the QUAD’s preparation to meet the challenge, the Indian Navy’s leadership is reconsidering its submarine options and may ask the Modi government to place another order for six Kalvari class submarines equipped with the DRDO’s tried-and-true and French Naval Group-tested AIP system.
An important part of the Indian Navy’s long-term strategy for the next quarter-century involves designing, developing, and building three nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines, sometimes known as nuclear attack submarines or SSNs.
India has two SSBNs capable of launching nuclear-powered ballistic missiles, and a third is currently being outfitted.
Having placed a second order for Kalvari class submarines, MDL will be able to continue exporting the same submarines to countries in Southeast Asia and Africa after this year’s commissioning of the final submarine in the Kalvari class.
The solution is to quietly bury Project 75 I and expand on the original Project 75 using AIP developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in India. Submarines of the Kalvari class can have the same AIP installed during mid-life upgrades.
India has not come up with a satisfactory response to the threat posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region, which is deploying anywhere from six to 10 warships, submarines included, annually.