India's Navy Just Inducted Its First Conventional Submarine (In 17 Years)
On Thursday, the Times of India reported that the INS Kalvari had been delivered to India’s Navy. The boat is the first of six in a variant on the Scorpène class of submarines that India is buying from France under an agreement reached back in 2005. That deal was reportedly for $3.75 billion and included technology transfer, with the submarines being built in Mumbai by Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL). Following the delivery of the submarine, MDL released a statement saying, “History was written at MDL on September 21, 2017 with the delivery of the first Scorpene submarine, Kalvari, to the Indian Navy. Post delivery, the submarine would soon be commissioned into the navy.”
This history was a long time in the making. As is often the case for India’s defense bureaucracy, the delivery of the submarines has been severely delayed. The deal initially anticipated the first submarine being ready by 2012, with the last one being delivered this year. Instead, the first one was delivered in 2015 and the second submarine was launched early this year. The third boat is expected to be launched sometime later this year, with the other three being completed around 2020.
The six undersea vessels are a badly needed infusion for the Indian Navy. The navy has an operational requirement for eighteen conventional attack submarines, but before this week’s delivery had only thirteen aging boats, down from twenty-one during the 1980s. Only half of these thirteen subs are operational at any one time.
The Scorpène submarine was jointly developed by the French company Naval Group (formerly DCNS), and the Spanish company Navantia. Other countries that have purchased Scorpène submarines include Chile, Brazil and Malaysia. India’s version reportedly stretches 61.7 meters and displaces over 1,500 tons while submerged. It was initially supposed to be equipped with air-independent propulsion systems built in India, but this does not appear to have come to fruition. It does have six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes that can be armed with antiship torpedoes, antiship missiles, or sea mines.
Among the armaments India’s subs will be equipped with is the SM.39 Exocet underwater-launched antiship missile, which the INS Kalvari flight tested earlier this year. The Exocet has a range of fifty kilometers and can also be fired at lower-than-periscope depths. According to the website Navy Recognition, the Exocet “features all weather capability, sea skimming flight, solid propellant and a high kill warhead.”
Regarding the Scorpène submarine in general, the Indian Navy has said: “The state-of-art features of the Scorpene include superior stealth and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface. The stealth features give it invulnerability, unmatched by many submarines.” India’s navy has also stated that the submarines will have a number of different missions, including antisubmarine warfare, antisurface warfare, intelligence gathering and mine laying, among others.