New Delhi: India's underwater combat arm - the submarines fleet - is sinking. India has 14 conventional submarines, of which half are available for deployment. This is because ageing submarine fleets is being forced to spend more and more time at the docks for repairs and maintenance.
The Navy says the shortage is a serious concern. "The possibility of submarines lurking underneath the sea makes it difficult for enemy ships to move freely. A depleting submarine fleet means we will less and less capability of this," a senior Navy officer told NDTV.
The bad news just got worse. Six Scorpene submarines, which were meant to be delivered by 2016, are further delayed. The first was expected in 2012. The first of these boats will now be inducted into the Navy in 2016. The reason: bureaucratic delay on part of the Department of Defence Procurement and the Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL) in finalising the purchase of the equipment to be fitted into the boat and these include the sensors, propulsion systems etc.
The order is not likely to be completed before 2022.
The six submarines are being built at Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai with technology transfer from DCNS of France. MDL and Department of Defence Procurement was scheduled to complete the negotiations for MPM equipment by 2006-2007. Although technicians were sent to train in France, the negotiations for purchase of the MPM equipment wasn't finalised. In 2010, the Navy was told the vital negotiations with vendors were far from complete and the first of the submarines wouldn't be ready for induction in 2012.
The initial cost of the six submarines was pegged at Rs 18,000 crore. With the delay, the cost is now pegged at least Rs 24000 crore.
The Indian Navy says it needs at least 24 conventional submarines to deter Pakistan and China on its east and west coast. China in comparison has about 60 submarines; Pakistan has five.
Even now, there is no clarity on what kind of torpedoes are to be fitted into these boats.
In 2011, MDL had proposed staggered delivery of the submarines, with the first in 2015 and then a new one every six months. The first submarine will now come only by 2016 followed by one every year from thereon.