Friday, July 24, 2015

The future of India's silent warriors - 1

The futuristic submarines of the Indian navy

Scorpene Submarine; Source - DCNS

      Sailing silently and stealthily where the fishes sleep these are the ultimate weapons of war ever invented by the mankind. Sailing hundreds of feet below the water, these naval platforms are the weapons of apocalypse and which can wipe out continents at the press of a button. ‘The silent warriors’ are respected highly for they sail silently in a piece of tin can measuring several hundred feet in length avoiding any contact and not witnessing sunlight for days together. These warriors are a class apart from the community and are always at war, even when docked, the ship is just not off-duty, the men never off-guard. They’re the silent warriors of the deep seas, the ‘Submariners’ sailing silently in the deepest oceans known to the mankind.

           Indian navy operates a sizable fleet of these technologically advanced pieces of machinery. The underwater force of the Indian navy is composed around the diesel-electric attack submarines. The navy operates 13 diesel-electric attack submarines and 1 nuclear powered attack submarine. The Kilo-class submarines acquired from the Russians are the backbone for underwater operations. The Kilo-class submarines were commissioned to the force as Sindhughosh class, the navy acquired 10 of these advanced submarines from Russia in the late 1980’s and have served for the past three decades.

Shishumar class submarine; Source - Net

       Indian navy also operates the Shishumar-class submarines a refined version of the Type 209 submarines developed by HDW, Germany. Indian navy currently operates 4 of these submarines which are propelled by diesel-electric motors. INS Chakra, an Akula-class nuclear powered attack submarine is being operated by the Indian navy. Chakra is on a 10 year lease from Russia. INS Chakra serves as a training platform for the Indian navy personnel who will be operating the indigenously built boomer, INS Arihant.

       For a country with more than 2500 kilometers of coastal waters an underwater force consisting of 14 submarines is extremely small. India is a rising global power and India’s interest in its resource rich backyard ‘Indian Ocean’ is increasing with every passing day. India is contemplating of increasing its EEZ from the existing 250 kilometers to at least 330 kilometers to utilize the readily available resources in IOR. With India’s arch rival ‘China’ lurking in the IOR, it is crucial India deploys a sizable fleet of the underwater force in the region. With India being an initiator for the ‘No first use’ policy it is crucial India maintains a ‘nuclear triad’ or ‘second strike capability’ platform for retaliatory strikes when provoked.

      Submarines will serve as the key conspirators in imposing a naval blockade on an enemy. China imports 80% of its oil and commodities through shipping lanes, these international shipping lanes pass through the strategic Malacca Straits in the Indian Ocean. The Andaman and Nicobar are strategically placed right at the mouth of ‘Malacca Straits’ and thus a naval blockade imposed at this position can cut off all the major supplies to China crippling its ‘war sustainability’ capabilities to a great extend. The blockade can be imposed only by maintaining a sizable fleet of both surface combatants and submarines, even though India operates highly advanced surface combatants the submarine force has been a matter of worry for the navy.

Kilo-Class Submarine; Source - Broadsword

       Indian government has floated tenders to procure the latest submersible platforms to complement the surface. Constituted under the P-75 project, Indian navy currently has six diesel-electric submarines under construction at Mazagon docks, Mumbai. The recently constituted P-75 I project also promises the navy with six more advanced diesel-electric submarines. Not much is known about the Advanced Technology Vessels (ATV) project, but over the years sources have confirmed about India acquiring 3 SSBN’s. India has also set apart funds for 6 nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN) or hunter killer submarines. In the decades to come India is expected operate at least 30-35 submarines.

The P-75 Project/ Kalvari Class – DCNS Scorpene 

INS Kalvari, the lead vessel; Source - MDL

          Constituted in 2005 the P-75 project was to provide India with the latest diesel-electric submarine.  A tender for acquiring six state-of-the-art conventionally powered submarines at a cost of US $3 billion was floated by India. DCNS of France, Amur Shipyard of Russia and HDW from Germany competed in the project. After a thorough evaluation program, DCNS was awarded the contract to supply India with six diesel-electric powered submarines. DCNS offered India with the ‘Scorpene’ submarines. Initially two of the six submarines were to be built in a French shipyard, and the rest four in an Indian shipyard under an agreed ToT agreement. But the project agreement was reversed and it was decided to manufacture all the six submarines in the Indian shipyard.

        DCNS teamed up with Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) based at Mumbai, the project kicked off with MDL boost to its the infrastructural capabilities. This paved way for the painstaking work of designing the Kalvari class submarine, by a joint team of highly qualified team of marine engineers from DCNS, MDL and NDB. Based on the Scorpene submarines the Kalvari class proved to be the most advanced submarine to be designed and to be manufactured by any Indian shipyard.

        The Scorpene submarines were selected over the U214 submarines mainly for its capability to fire the Exocet anti-shipping missiles and with DCNS readiness to equip the submarines with Indian-made AIP systems. The first submarine of the class was laid down in May 2009. Due to holdups in the design and fabrication phase, the project is five years behind the schedule. The first breakthrough in the project came when the first submarine of the class, INS Kalvari was launched on 6th April 2015 by MoD Manohar Parrikar. The submarine will now enter harbour trials and after completion of controlled dives will enter the final sea trials by the year end. The submarine is expected to be inducted to the force by September 2016.

      The Scorpene submarines are a class apart, diesel powered hunter killer submarines developed by DCNS of France. Displacing 1900 tonnes of water when submerged these submarines can sail almost at zero noise underwater thus avoiding any detection by enemy submarines. This enables the submarine to tail enemy high value targets like the ‘aircraft carriers’ or ‘SSBN’s’ and gain acoustical and thermal images which will prove vital in war times. Powered by two diesel engines the submarine can attain a maximum speed of 37 km/h when submerged and can cut through the waters at 22 km/h when surfaced. The diesel engines are complemented by two Jeumont-Schneider EPM Magtronic batteries which collectively churn out 2800 kW of power, allowing the submarine to operate ultra quite when tailing targets.

Scorpene undergoing Harbor trials; Source - Net

        The hull of the Scorpene submarines is fabricated with HLES-80 high grade steel, which can withstand extremely high pressure and allows the submarine to dive to depths up to 1200 feet. The hull of the submarine can be classified into three sections namely, the bow section containing the torpedo tubes, electric batteries, storage compartments and ballast tanks. The midship of the submarine houses the control rooms, crew quarters and living area. The stern section consists of the main propulsion units, electric batteries, AIP units, control machinery and another set of ballast tanks.

        The Scorpene submarine is equipped with some of the most advanced electronic and sensor suites. These features clubbed with the latest machinery on board makes the submarine extremely nimble and efficient. The SUBTICS or Submarine tactical integrated combat system is a fully integrated tactical suite designed for the coherent functioning of various sub-systems fitted on the submarine. SUBTICS, is packed with state-of-the-art acoustic sensor suites which are crucial in increasing the battle theatre awareness.

      The submarine is also equipped with the latest optronic sensors and navigational sensors enabling the sub to sail through the waters effortlessly. The submarine is also equipped with environmental awareness and tactical navigation planning kits which help in meticulous planning of sea lanes for the submarine to traverse. Secured VLF/SHF communication channels and tactical data link, enables the submarine to relay secured information over the network to other naval platforms.

      Scorpene submarines are equipped with Thales DR 3000 electronic warfare system. The submarine is also equipped with Sagem Series 20 Attack Periscope System (APS) and Series 30 Search Mast System (SMS). The primary radar system for the Scorpene’s is the extremely accurate and efficient Sagem Series-10 compact submarine radar system. The SONAR system of the sub is composed by the, Thales S-cube integrated sonar suite and passive ranging distributed array sonar. 

       Primarily being a hunter killer submarine, it is equipped with six 533mm mts torpedoes which can strike naval targets with pin-point accuracy. The submarine can carry up to 18 black shark heavy weight torpedoes. The sub’s unique ability is to launch cruise missiles capable of striking land targets for which the sub employs the SM39 Exocet anti-shipping missiles. The submarine is redesigned to be fitted with the BrahMos cruise missiles and the indigenously developed Nirbhay cruise missile. The submarine can carry up to 30 mines for mine laying missions.

Article By Karthik Kakoor 

No comments:

Post a Comment