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India Launches Scorpene-Class INS Karanj, But Navy Chief Worries About Delay in Submarine Projects

INS Karanj is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy latest by 2019. (Image: News18)

INS Karanj is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy latest by 2019. (Image: News18)

As India readies herself to play a more active role in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Indo-Pacific with an aggressive China expanding its ‘String of Pearls’, a powerful, new-age and well-equipped Navy is essential.

New Delhi: On Wednesday morning, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba launched the third of India’s locally manufactured Scorpene-class submarines. INS Karanj is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy latest by 2019. But what was meant to be a time of relief for the Indian Navy, which is desperately trying to expand its submarine fleet, was also a time of worry and concern.

The Navy chief rapped Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL), the Indian manufacturer of the submarines, for the delay in manufacturing.

As India readies herself to play a more active role in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Indo-Pacific with an aggressive China expanding its ‘String of Pearls’, a powerful, new-age and well-equipped Navy is essential to not only guard the over 7,500 kms coastline, but also secure India’s interests in the IOR.

While the Indian Navy received some relief with the commissioning of INS Kalvari, it still has to make do with a fleet of 13, mostly ageing, submarines.

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had earlier said that India planned to have a fleet of 22 submarines by 2020-21. Already, sources indicate that there may be a further delay of two years and all six Scorpene-class submarines may still not be inducted till the end of 2023.

Project 75 (P-75), India’s project worth Rs 70,000 crore for the indigenous manufacturing of stealth submarines, has been getting off to a low start ten years after it actually started.

P-75 was approved in 2005 and according to the original schedule, the first of the six submarines, the INS Kalvari, was scheduled to be delivered to the Navy by 2012.

However, it was only by December 2017 that the submarine was inducted into the Navy. INS Khanderi, the second submarine which is named after Chattrapati Shivaji’s island fortress, was launched in January 2017. INS Karanj, the third, was launched on Wednesday.

The project is already late by six years. Even if all the delays are smoothed out, the Navy worries, the project has already been pushed back two years and this has not gone unnoticed at the highest of levels.

Earlier this week, reports suggested that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had rapped the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the delay. The MoD, in turn, has made its displeasure clear to MDL.

Defence expert Comodore (retd.) C Uday Bhaskar said, “These delays have taken place across the board. (This starts) from the highest level of decision-making in the government, which is the Cabinet led by successive Prime Ministers. And this is not just the story of India’s submarine platform. Across the board, the Indian Military has been plagued by deficiencies and inventory gaps which are very alarming.”

“Part of the reason is that we have not been able to introduce an appropriate level of efficiency and swiftness in decision-making about acquiring major military platforms and once the decision is made, we are not able to implement the process of induction with the kind of urgency that is required. As a result, the Scorpene, as a programme, had started almost two decades ago and they were delayed in the acquisition process and finally, when we had signed the contract and the French were on board, we still had some delays due to some contractual issues. We lost almost five years in delays.”

Meanwhile, the INS Karanj joined its sister submarines INS Kavlari and INS Khanderi as the third Scorpene Class submarine.

“A submarine has to be undetectable. The acoustics, propulsion and ordnance such as torpedoes etc on INS Karanj have been designed keeping in mind the latest practices of submarine design. This would be valuable for the Indian Navy’s submarine arm,” said Commodore (retd.) C Uday Bhaskar.