August 25, 2016 4:25:06 am
The origins of Project 75, which entails construction of six Kalavari class conventional submarines, lie in the 30-Year Plan for Indigenous Submarine Construction approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in early 1999. It envisaged the development of two production lines on which six submarines apiece — christened Project 75 and Project 75 (I) — would be built in collaboration with two separate foreign submarine builders.
In 2002, Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), Mumbai, was identified as the yard to construct the French-designed Scorpene submarines under Project 75 after successful completion of negotiations with the French company DCNS. The signing of the deal was, however, delayed as India was pressing Paris to stop the sales of French weapons to Pakistan before signing the Scorpene deal.
The $ 3.5 bn-deal was eventually signed in 2005 under which DCNS would transfer technology and train personnel at MDL to construct the submarines. The agreement also included the training of Indian Navy personnel in operating and maintaining these submarines.
Construction of the first submarine started in May 2009, and the project is currently running 40 months behind schedule. The first of the six submarines, INS Kalavari, went for sea trials in May, and will be inducted into service later this year. The others are at various stages of construction at MDL, and are scheduled be inducted at a gap of nine months each, with the last submarine entering service in 2020.
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The 66-metre-long submarine has a speed of 20 knots, and can dive up to a depth of 300 metres to elude enemy detection. With 31 personnel on board, it can remain at sea for about 50 days. The submarine uses “high-yield specific steel”, which was a problem for MDL, and caused the delay in the project.
The Scorpene is believed to be stealthier than the average submarine because of its advanced combat management system and low acoustic signature. It also uses a noise-cancelling technique, whereby its equipment is mounted on elastic to prevent noisy vibrations from travelling outside the vessel. Its body is also designed to be more difficult for sonar to detect.
These submarines will, however, not have a torpedo fitted on them after the government earlier this year suspended the contract with WASS, a Finmeccanica subsidiary, after the VVIP helicopter scam. The DRDO had proposed fitting the last two of the Project 75 submarines with an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, but the DRDO-developed system was not found up to the mark. The six submarines will thus be conventional diesel submarines, and bring the number of submarines in India’s fleet up to 19.
In 2006, following the publication of reports alleging irregularities in the Scorpene deal, a public interest petition was filed seeking an investigation. In January 2016, the Delhi High Court dismissed the petition, agreeing with the CBI — which had carried out a preliminary enquiry earlier — that the allegations were not established.
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