India’s first new conventional submarine in 16 years finally began its sea trials off Mumbai on Sunday, giving much-needed fillip to the Navy, which is battling to retain its underwater combat edge over Pakistan, even while being confronted with Chinese submarines popping up all over the Indian Ocean.
But the diesel-electric Scorpene submarine —to be commissioned as INS Kalvari (tiger shark) by 2016-end — is like an underwater predator without teeth, a gun without bullets, as of now. The induction of its “primary weapons”, heavyweight torpedoes, remains enmeshed in the still-exploding VIP helicopter scam.
The Rs 1,800 crore-acquisition of ‘Black Shark’ torpedoes from Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica’s subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel to arm the six French-origin Scorpene submarines being constructed at Mazagon Docks has been hanging fire for several years
First, the acquisition project was put on hold after German Atlas Elektronik Gmbh complained of “irregularities” in the selection process after the Black Shark torpedo was chosen over its Seahake torpedo. Then, after a special technical oversight committee gave it the go-ahead, the VIP helicopter scam erupted to derail the process once again, as earlier reported by TOI.
In effect, INS Kalvari will be inducted with tube-launched SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles but its main weapon to maintain stealth will be missing. The Rs 23,652 crore Scorpene project, with contracts being inked way back in October 2005, has faced huge time and cost overruns.
The first Scorpene, for instance, was to be ready by 2012, with the other five coming by 2017. “INS Kalvari will now be commissioned by December, with the other five following at nine-month intervals till 2020. Its first surface sea sortie will be followed by a barrage of dive, noise and weapons trials. But the trials will have to be halted during the June-July monsoons due to choppy waters,” said an official.
It seems India’s security in land,water,air is lax because of the corrupt Congress which misruled our country for 60 years. For example, Agusta westland deal is really meant to make India a wasteland.
The Navy, meanwhile, is down to just 13 ageing conventional submarines, nine of them of Russian-origin Sindhughosh class and four German or Shishumar-class. While a submarine’s prescribed design life is 25 years, 10 of them have already crossed that mark.
Incidentally, it was the Vajpayee-led NDA government that in July 1999 had approved a 30-year submarine building plan for induction of 24 submarines in a phased manner. Seventeen years later, not even one submarine has been commissioned.