INS Kalvari

India has taken a major step forward to complete its nuclear weapons triad by commissioning its first small nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles called INS Arihant last year, to add to the existing Agni land missiles and fighter-bombers, but its old conventional underwater combat arm has been a huge worry for the last several years.

So, when the PM commissions India’s first new diesel-electric submarine in over 17 years in Mumbai on Thursday, it will be a red-letter day for the beleaguered Navy. The force, after all, is grappling with just 13 ageing conventional submarines, only half of them operational at any given time.

The new 1,565-tonne submarine, INS Kalvari (tiger shark, a deadly deep-sea predator), after the first-ever submarine inducted by India from Russia in December 1967, is to be followed by five of her Scorpene sisters under the Rs.23,652 crore “Project-75” underway at Mazagon Docks in collaboration with France. The Scorpene project, of course, has faced huge time and cost overruns.

The second one, INS Khanderi, will be commissioned by mid-2018, with the third, INS Karanj, by early-2019. All six will be inducted by 2020-2021 now.

The submarine, which has aspeed of 20 knots, is equipped with sea-skimming SM-39 Exocet missiles and heavy-weight wire-guided surface and underwater target torpedoes.

The Navy is also keen to kick-start the long-delayed “Project-75-India” for construction of six new stealth submarines, with both land-attack missile capabilities and air-independent propulsion.  India needs 18 diesel-electric and six nuclear attack submarines, backed by four SSBNs armed with long-range ballistic missiles, to guard against a two-front threat scenario, from China and Pakistan, as well as achieve credible nuclear deterrence.

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