Why INS Vagir – Indian Navy’s New French-Origin Submarine Can Be A ‘Silent Killer’?

Indian Navy’s fifth Scorpene submarine INS Vagir under Project-75 was launched at the Mazagon Dock in south Mumbai on Thursday. It has been named after a submarine from Russia which was commissioned into the Indian Navy on December 3, 1973, and was decommissioned on June 7, 2001.

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Part of the six Kalvari-class submarines being built in India by French naval defense and energy company DCNS, Scorpene submarines have superior stealth features like the advanced acoustic absorption technique, low radiated noise levels, and hydro-dynamically optimized shape and also the ability to attack the enemy using precision-guided weapons.

They have the ability to undertake missions like anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine laying, and area surveillance.

Scorpene submarines are a category of diesel-electric attack submarines meant to stay submerged for extended durations and undertake operations like intelligence gathering also as they participate in special operations during hostilities.

With the production of these submarines, India has further cemented its position as a submarine building nation. This is in sync with the current impetus of the government towards Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India), Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders said in a statement.

Under Project-75, six submarines of Scorpene design are being built at Mazagon Dock, Mumbai. The first submarine Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, the second is Khanderi, followed by Karanj, Vela, Vagir, and Vagsheer.

Kalvari and Khanderi have been commissioned into the Indian Navy. Karanj is in the last phase of rigorous sea trials, Vela has commenced her sea trials while Vagsheer is being readied.

The surface displacement of these submarines is 1,615 tonnes and submerge displacement is 1,775 tonnes. Their surface speed is 20km/hour while submerge speed is 37km/hour. They have been so far tested for a depth of 350 meters.

Vela-class submarine - Wikipedia
FILE IMAGE: Vela-class submarine – Wikipedia

While these are state-of-the-art, silent, modern, stealth submarines and they have got good endurance but there are two main issues with them, Commodore Anil Jai Singh, the Vice President of the Indian Maritime Foundation points out.

Talking to the EurAsian Times, Commodore Singh says, the first issue is that they do not have an air-independent propulsion system, it means that they will have to come to the surface for fresh air to charge the batteries.

The air-independent propulsion system gives the submarine the ability to stay silent and quiet and not give away its position while patrolling near enemy waters.

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed its own AIP system, which will eventually be fitted aboard all Kalvari-class submarines.

Initially, the 5th and 6th submarine were supposed to receive an AIP plug but due to the delays, it was decided that the AIP plug will be retrofitted to each Kalvari-class submarine during their first normal refit that occurs after every seven years.

“The second limitation is that the missile they carry, EXOCET SM39, does not have adequate range, which is about 70km. It is not an adequate range to fire a missile, damage a ship, and get away from there. Because a torpedo also goes 50km, so it is better to go further and fire a torpedo than a missile,” Singh says.

These submarines can attack with both torpedoes and tube-launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on the surface. It is important to fix the said issues to make these submarines more efficient.

In the deployment scenario, they are capable of operating in the entire Indian Ocean Region, in Malacca Straits from the east to the Persian Gulf on the west, and in the south of India up to Mauritius.

Singh says: “Conventional submarines like Scorpene are deployed closer to enemy harbours. Like in war with Pakistan, these submarines will be deployed between Bombay and Gwadar. Any movement of the Pakistan navy would be in detection ranges of these submarines”.