The recent disaster in the Indian submarine INS Sindhurakshak that perhaps killed all 18 Navy personnel on-board has raised a pertinent question on the Indian Navy’s submarine conditions as well as its underwater combat edge. According to a TOI report, currently, India can only deploy 7-8 “aging conventional” submarines against enemy forces.
The stark reality is that the Indian Navy is left with only 13 aging diesel-electric submarines – 11 of them over 20 years old. Out of the 13 submarines – 9 Kilo-class of Russian origin and 4 HDW of German-origin – are undergoing reparation to ‘extend’ their operational lives. The only “face saver” of the Navy seems to be the INS Chakra, the only nuclear-powered submarine, taken on a 10-year lease from Russia last year. But due to international treaties, it is not armed with nuclear-tipped missiles. With its 300-km range Klub-S land-attack cruise missiles, other missiles and advanced torpedoes, the INS Chakra can serve as a deadly `hunter-killer’ of enemy submarines and warships. Moreover, India has been indecisive to fit Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) in the last two of the six French Scorpene submarines being constructed for over Rs 23,000 crore at Mazagon Docks under “Project-75″. The first Scorpene will be delivered only by November 2016. On August 12, the Indian Navy launched its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, placing India in the fifth rank, after US, Russia, Britain and France, who have the ability to design and build aircraft carriers of 40,000 tonnes and above. With a capacity to deploy over 30 aircraft and helicopters, it is considered to be the biggest aircraft carrier in India.
Pakistan Navy Power: Whereas the neighbouring country Pakistan, which is continuously violating ceasefire bilateral agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) since last month, is far more more advanced and well prepared in terms of submarines. Presently, Pakistan is well equipped with five “new conventional” submarines and is considering to get six more ‘advanced’ vessels from its all-weather friend China. China already flexes its muscles with 47 diesel-electric submarines and eight nuclear-powered submarines. Incidentally, the Pakistan Navy is the first force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to have submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) in the shape of three French Agosta-90B vessels.
The difference: The conventional submarines have to surface every few days to get oxygen to recharge their batteries in contrast with the AIP equipped submarines that can stay submerged for much longer periods to significantly boost their stealth and combat capabilities