India today has launched the fourth of six planned Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs) for the Indian Navy at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) shipyard in Mumbai.
The new SSK, christened Vela, is now slated to “undergo rigorous trials and tests, both in harbor and at sea before delivery to the Indian Navy,” the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement. The submarine is expected to join the fleet some time in 2020.
French state-owned submarine builder Naval Group, formerly known as Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS), was awarded a $4.16 billion contract by the Indian government to build six SSKs for the Indian Navy in cooperation with MDL under the MoD’s Project-75 acquisition program.
The first-of-class INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017 in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The second boat of the class, the future INS Khanderi, is expected to be commissioned in the coming days. The SSK recently successfully completed harbor and sea trials.
At the current induction rate of one SSK per year, it appears unlikely that the Navy will commission the remaining three submarines by the end of 2020 as originally envisioned. According to a senior MDL official, the sixth submarine will be delivered to the service by 2022.
Powered by two 1250 kW MAN Diesel Engines, the SSKs operational range is around 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 kilometers). Each SSK is powered by 360 battery cells and a permanently magnetized propulsion motor for operation under water.
While the class will not be equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system for the time being, there are plans to retrofit the boats with a domestically designed and built AIP in the coming years.
The Kalvari-class will be armed with French-made Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile, a sea-skimming, subsonic, solid-fueled anti-ship missile with an estimated operational range of 50-70 kilometers, and heavy-weight torpedoes. Each submarine can carry up to 18 anti-ship missiles or heavy-weight torpedoes.
“As of now, however, the Indian Navy does not possess modern heavyweight torpedoes as it had to cancel an order for 98 Black Shark torpedoes in 2017 following a corruption scandal,” I wrote last year.
In February of this year, the MoD approved the procurement of 100 new heavyweight torpedoes. The service is reportedly considering German SeaHake or French F21 Artemis heavyweight torpedoes. It could also revert to the Black Shark torpedo, according to some report.
Notably, the Defense Acquisition Council, the Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) principal procurement body, has approved the procurement of additional SSKs under Project-75 India (Project-75 I) in January. The total contract value is estimated at around $5.6 billion.