|A Kilo-Class Submarine|
Admiral Karambir Singh, the chief of the Indian Navy, recently paid a low-key three-day visit to Russia. The trip was “primarily about submarines,” according to one source, aside from attending the Russian Navy’s 325th-anniversary celebration in St Petersburg on July 25. The CNS (Chief of Naval Staff) paid a visit to the Zvezdochka shipyard in northern Russia, where he checked on the progress of a Russian nuclear submarine refurbishment. In 2019, India and Russia agreed to build the Chakra-3, a $3 billion (Rs 22,000 crore) nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) based on the ex-Russian Navy’s Akula class. The price includes a 72-month refit as well as a ten-year lease for the SSN.
Another new submarine, the Bratsk, will replace Chakra-2,
which will be returned to the Russian Navy after the ten-year lease ends this
year. The crew of this submarine was sent to Russia for training last year. In
January 2021, the Russian news agency TASS reported that the Bratsk class will
be delivered to India in the “first quarter of 2026”.
shipyard formally offered to sell three conventional Kilo-class submarines to
India at a symbolic price of one rupee only. In an introduction to Admiral Singh, the Russian
side stated that it hoped that India would only pay about 250 million US
dollars per vessel for conversion costs (18.5 billion rupees). The last time
India chose this procurement model was when it acquired the former Soviet aircraft
carrier Admiral Gorshkov in 2004.
The final overhaul cost exceeded US$2
billion. The Kilo-class submarine is the largest conventional submarine (SSK)
of the Indian Navy. It purchased 10 ships from the Soviet Union and Russia
between 1986 and 2000.
It has now fallen to only 7 kg; one was lost in an
accident in 2013, the second unit was transferred to the Myanmar Navy last
year, and the third unit is ready. Remove it. The Russian proposal seems very
attractive to the Indian Navy, whose submarine force is facing a crisis.
Decades of indecision and lack of a clear home-grown construction plan have
left the Navy severely lacking conventional and nuclear submarines. You
expected 18 SSKs and 6 SSN requirements, but you only have 14 SSKs and no SSN.
In this decade, it will only purchase three more SSKs and eliminate at least
four older SSKs.
On July 20 this year, the Indian Ministry of Defence submitted
a proposal (RFP) requesting the construction of six SSK under the 75I (P-75I)
conventional submarine project in India. However, the RFP is only the beginning
of a long process of assessing which of the two shortlisted shipyards Mazagon
Docks Ltd or Larsen & Toubro can sign a contract. It takes six years to
build a conventional submarine, and the pre-contract process may take that
Even the most optimistic assessment did not see the first unit delivered
at the end of the decade. Aware of the delay of the P-75I project, the Navy has
decided in recent years to extend the life of its existing submarines. It has
dispatched three Kilo-class submarines for the second overhaul (most submarines
have only one service life), which will extend their service life by 15 years.
The fourth submarine is awaiting a modification decision. Three or more
second-hand submarines can close the gap within this decade. The three Kilos
provided are over 30 years old and will soon be retired from the Russian Navy,
but additional repairs may extend your hull for another 10 years. (Russia has a
13 kg former Soviet fleet built between 1988 and 1990, so more hulls may be
provided.) Because they are already in use, the Navy will not need to create
new infrastructure, Review crew training or acquire new missiles and torpedoes.
Perhaps this is why the Russian proposal is considered attractive. This is the
fastest way to quickly increase the falling power level. However, the other
side of the problem is the age of the ship. Each unit is more than 30 years old
and has exceeded its 25-year technical life. Another overhaul extended its
service life by 15 years. This could mean embezzling funds from the navy’s
already meagre capital procurement budget. The longer other navies plan to
deliver submarines, the more attractive the Russian offer.