The Kalvari, the tiger shark, is the first Indian submarine under Project 75. As it sets off for sea trial Amresh Srivastava finds out what all went in to accomplish this feat that would add to the country’s military muscle
On May 1, Indian Navy gave a further push to its blue water naval capability when it launched INS Kalvari, Scorpene class submarine in sea for trial. Designed by French naval defence and energy company, DCNS and manufactured at Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), INS Kalvari is described by defence experts as a “game changer” as it can operate in all theatres and possesses superior stealth features than several modern day submarines of the world. Fitted with precision guided weapons, it can launch a crippling attack on the enemy. Built after 16 years of conceptualisation and some avoidable delays, INS Kalvari is the first of the Indian Navy’s six Kalvari-class submarines being built in India.
To enhance its stealth capability, it will be fitted with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system which would enable the submarine to stay underwater for longer periods without having to constantly surface to charge its batteries. Significantly, 30 percent of the equipment on the Kalvari is made in India, giving a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The construction of this submarine started on 1 April 2009. Earlier, the submarine was undocked on pontoon on April 6, 2015 in Defence Minister Manohar Parrikkar’s presence. It underwent vacuum tests and battery loading at Mazagaon Dockyard before returning to the MDL for completion of the basin trials and harbour acceptance trials phase.
Then the submarine underwent a number of preliminary tests on the propulsion system, auxiliary equipment and systems, navigation aids, communication equipment and steering gear and various standard operating procedures (SOP) were also validated for this new class of submarines before it returned to harbour before it returned the dock in the same evening.
The submarine will undergo various surface, sea and diving, weapons and most important the noise trials, testing the extremes of operating system. After completion of all tests successfully, the pride acquisition of Navy Kalvari, the Tiger Shark is likely to induct into Indian Navy by end of this year though the MDL and the Navy want to complete its all trials by the end of September 2016. The Defence experts say that this will add substantial strength to Indian Navy.
It is a diesel-electric attack submarine which is designed in by French naval defence and Energy Company DCNS and being manufactured at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai.
Under the ambitious plan and to give fillip to the strength of the Indian Navy, the six Scorpene submarines are being built by the State owned MDL in Mumbai in collaboration with DCNS of France at a cost of $3.6 billion (Rs 20,000 crore approximately).
Equipped with state-of-art features like superior stealth capability, enabling it to launch a deadly attack on enemies with precision-guided weaponry system which includes torpedoes, tube-launched anti-ship missiles both on surface and the underwater, The Kalvari Scorpene submarine is designed to operate in all areas of Indian maritime zone. It is fitted with all means and communications to ensure interoperability with other components of Indian Navy.
The Kalvari is 216 foot long and 20 foot wide with 1550 tons weight. It is fitted with Air Independent Propulsion or AIP which gives it an edge over the conventional submarine. The AIP makes it distinct from all the all submarines of this category, Australia’s huge contract of 12 submarines to the same company DCNS will have the same AIP. The only difference is that the Australian sub will have nuke based AIP and Kalvari has diesel electric AIP,” says defence expert Brigadier (Retd.) Arun Sehgal. It can be deployed for multipurpose assignments like anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, mine laying, intelligence gathering, and area surveillance very efficiently. This will be equipped with two anti-ship missiles and torpedoes.
Unfortunately the supply of torpedoes for the six submarines under Project 75 is under cloud. The main arsenal “Black Shark” torpedo is to be supplied by the Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica’s subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel. The Finmeccania’s subsidiary Augusta Westland is under fire here in India in a VIP chopper deal. If this is not getting cleared by the political leadership, this sub along with other five under construction, will be like a tiger without nails .
The Scorpene classes of submarine are built from specially made steel which is capable of withstanding high-yield pressure with high tensile strength that gives them to sustained high hydrostatic force, enabling them for deep dive to enhanced stealth. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles, during underwater or on surface. The Stealth features give it invincibility, unmatched by many other submarines.
The Scorpene is equipped with Weapons Launching Tubes (WLT), and its weapons can be easily reloaded at sea with special handling and loading equipment. The array of weapons and complex sensors fitted on board the Scorpene are managed by a high technology combat management system.
India joined the exclusive group of submarine constructing nations on 07 February 1992, with the commissioning of the first Indian built submarine, INS Shalki. That was indeed a proud day for Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd, who had built this submarine. Mazagon Dock then went on to commission another submarine, INS Shankul, on 28 May 1994. These submarines are still in service today, after more than 20 years; testimony to the skills and capability of Mazagon Dock.
The Submarine is built according to the principle of Modular Construction, which involves dividing the submarine into a number of sections and building them parallel. The complexity of the task increases exponentially as it involves lying of around 60-km of cabling and 11-km of piping in extremely congested and limited space inside the submarine. Further, the stringent tolerances laid down for the construction of the Scorpene were indeed a challenge, but have been successfully achieved.
In April 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had directed that all-out efforts be made to complete the project on schedule after which teams from MDL, Indian Navy and DCNS worked round-the-clock on it.
India joined the elite submarine building nations on February 7, 1992 with the commissioning of the first indigenously-built sub, INS Shalki at the MDL. It is still in service.
The New Submarine Kalvari, the Tiger Shark lacks Teeth
After a long gap of 16 years, the most awaited submarine built by the public sector Mazagaon Dock Limited lacks its main weapons the Black Shark torpedoes. The Rs 1,800 crore torpedoes are to be supplied by the Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel, a subsidiary company of Italian Finmeccanica. The Finmeccanica is under fire in India nowadays for alleged corrupt practices in VIP chopper deal by its subsidiary AgustaWestland. The Italian conglomerate is not blacklisted here so far but the fresh arm deals are on hold. The entire controversy may cast shadow over the supply of torpedoes for the submarine leaving it without teeth for some more time.
Earlier, the acquisition project was put on hold after German Atlas Elektronik complained of some irregularities in the selection process for this deal. The German Atlas Elektronik also made a bid for its Seahake torpedo but the Black Shark torpedo was selected instead of Seahake torpedo. After the complaint by the Atlas Electronik for procedural lapses a special technical oversight committee examined the charges and found nothing wrong in selection process and gave it the go-ahead to Whitehead Alenia
The Indian Navy is hopeful that the main weapon will be made available to the new submarine which is going to be inducted as INS Kalvari very soon. “The deal was inked with a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. If some other allied company has done something wrong the entire company should not be banned. The armament is not from the same company which is under fire. The torpedoes are the essential part of integrated combat system. Finmeccanica is involved in 10 to 12 defence projects and you cannot black list for the some wrong doings of its subsidiary. Bring the wrong doers to task and punish them. Blacklisting the entire group will harm the national interests,” said defence expert Brigadier (Retd.), Arun Sehgal.
‘Kalvari’ the Tiger Shark
Kalvari is dreaded Tiger Shark, a deadly deep sea predator. As is the tradition, ships and submarines of the Navy, are brought alive after decommissioning. The first Kalvari, which was also the first Indian submarine, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 08 December 1967 under Commander KS Subramanian. The Submarine was decommissioned on 31 May 1996 after almost 30 years of yeoman service to the nation. The decommissioning of INS Kalvari, the Grand Old Lady of Indian Navy - on May 31, 1996 left the crew with teary eyes. "In the case of a ship or submarine you have commanded, particularly if she is the first of her kind in the Navy, her decommissioning is a poignant occasion," says Subramanian, who was then a retired Commodore, the chief guest for the occasion.
“In true nautical traditions, it will now be re-incarnated, by Mazagon Dock, once again a powerful predator of the deep, guarding the vast maritime interests and areas of our nation” said the Indian Navy in its release.
Underwater Combat Status of Indian Navy
In July 1999 the then Vajpayee Government planned to strengthen the naval power in view of India’s maritime interest in Indian Ocean and Arabian sea. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a 30 years submarine building programme for induction of 24 submarines in a phased manner.
Seventeen years later, not even one submarine has been commissioned so far as on date.
Phase I - 2000 to 2012: Two Groups for the making of 12 Submarines; each group to build six subs.
Project 75: Construction of six subs, Kalvari is first out of six submarines, likely to be inducted in Indian Navy by September 2016 after a delay of four years.
•Remaining five will be delivered one after the other with a break of nine months in between in case of each of them.
Project 75 India: An estimated fund of Rs 50,000 crore. Acceptance of Necessity was given for this in November 2007.
•Tender for this project is yet to be issued as the defence/private shipyard and the foreign collaborator are yet to be decided by the Government.
•Will take at least eight to nine years to deliver the first submarine after the contract is signed.
Nuclear: Three nuke powered ballistic missile submarines are being built at Vishakhapatanam at cost of Rs 30,000 crore.
•INS Arihant: Trails are in progress. No time line is specified yet for its induction in Indian Navy.
• Plan to build six more nuke powered submarines at the cost of Rs 50,000 crore.
•INS Chakra which is on lease from Russia since 2012 is without missile.
There is no induction of conventional submarine so far.
After the blast in INS Sindhu Rakshak in August 2013, India is left with 13 old submarines.