The Buzz

India's New Attack Submarine Comes with Some Serious Firepower

After long years of neglect, India’s submarine fleet is quickly growing.

On January 31, India launched INS Karanj at a naval dock in Mumbai. India’s Navy chief, Adm. Sunil Lanba, was on hand to watch the event.

INS Karanj is the third of six Scorpène submarines that India is purchasing form France. Delhi and Paris first inked the agreement for the submarines in 2005, with the first one expected to be delivered in 2012. Instead, delivery was delayed until 2015 and didn’t get commissioned into India’s Navy until December of last year. The second Scorpène was launched in January 2017 and is currently undergoing sea trials. Local media reports say that INS Karanj is also expected to undergo sea trials for roughly a year before being commissioned into India’s navy.

Recommended: America Has Military Options for North Korea (but They're All Bad)

Recommended: 1,700 Planes Ready for War: Everything You Need To Know About China's Air Force

Recommended: Stealth vs. North Korea’s Air Defenses: Who Wins?

Delhi needs all the submarines it can get. By its own estimates, the Indian Navy needs roughly eighteen conventional attack submarines. Before commissioning the first of the Scorpène submarines in December, India’s navy had thirteen aging ships, only half of which were operational at any one time. By contrast, the country had twenty-one submarines during the 1980s. The decline in India’s undersea fleet is also evident from the fact that, according to the Times of India, Delhi hadn’t commissioned a new attack submarine in seventeen years until the first Scorpène was commissioned in December 2017.

The Indian firm Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL) is collaborating with the French company Naval Group (formerly DCNS) in building Delhi’s Scorpène submarines. Each submarine reportedly displaces around 1,500 tons, with a length of sixty-one meters. They boast six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes that can be armed with antiship torpedoes, antiship missiles or sea mines. The Scorpène submarines—which India calls the Kalavri class—are expected to be armed with the SM.39 Exocet underwater-launched antiship missile, which the lead ship, INS Kalvari, flight tested last year. The Exocet has a range of fifty kilometers and can also be fired at lower-than-periscope depths. The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, said the subs are powered by 360 battery cells that each weigh 750 kilograms, with two 1,250 kW MAN diesel engines charging the batteries. They are manned by a crew of forty-three sailors.

In a press release announcing last month’s ship launch, India’s Ministry of Defense stated: “The state-of- the-art technology utilized for construction of the Scorpene class submarines has ensured superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimized shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons.”

It added: “The attack can be launched with both torpedoes and tube launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface. The stealth of this potent platform is enhanced by the special attention given to various signatures. These stealth features give it an invulnerability, unmatched by most submarines.” In addition, the Ministry of Defense said that the subs will be used in a multitude of different missions, including antisurface and antisubmarine warfare, along with intelligence gathering, surveillance and mine laying. The Kalvari-class subs are also able to operate in all different theaters.