Kalvari adds to Indian Navy’s underwater stealth

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Published: April 13, 2015 12:14:28 AM

The first Scorpene submarine, christened Kalvari, is expected to provide a major fillip to the Indian Navy’s underwater capability by undertaking multifarious warfare, anti-submarine warfare and intelligence gathering

Kalvari, first of the Indian Navy’s Scorpene class stealth submarines being built under the Project 75, achieved a major milestone last week with her ‘undocking’ at the Mazagon Dock in Mumbai. Undocked by the defence minister Manohar Parrikar, it is the first of the six Scorpene submarines in which DCNS of France is a collaborator with Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) as the builder and is the country’s first indigenous submarine. More than 30 Indian companies were involved in the indigenisation process of these submarines.

With a name steeped in the long and glorious tradition of its illustrious predecessor, an erstwhile Russian ‘Foxtrot’ class submarine, Kalvari, upon its scheduled commissioning in 2016, is expected to lend an enormous fillip to the Indian Navy’s underwater capability. The
remaining five boats of the Project 75 would be delivered by the yard to the Navy by 2020 and would form the core of the Navy’s submarine arm for the next two decades.

This development puts India in a better better position to fulfill its requirement of submarines to protect its sea waters by 2022. The Scorpene is part of the ambitious Project 75 of Indian Navy’s submarine programme, undertaken with French collaboration, which will include six such vessels joining the fleet over the next few years. The state-of-the-art features of the Scorpene include superior stealth and ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles, while underwater or on surface.3

Kalvari is designed to operate in all theatres including the tropics. All means and communications are provided to ensure interoperability with other components of a naval task force. It can undertake multifarious warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering,  area surveillance etc. Built from special steel capable of withstanding high yield stress and having high tensile strength, it can withstand high hydrostatic force and enabling it to dive deeper. It is equipped with Weapons Launching tubes (WLT) and can carry weapons on board which can be easily reloaded at sea.

At present, Indian Navy has 14 conventional diesel-electric powered submarines which include 10 Russian Kilo Class and four German HDW class vessels. These submarines have diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion. Interestingly, following a naval tradition, in which warships never die, the new diesel-electric submarines will be named as per the old Foxtrot class boats, which were decommissioned decades ago. They were the first submarines of the Navy.

Since there have been several accidents on the naval vessels, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to include mechanisms in these submarines to ensure safety. The agency is said to be developing a system to carry out structured health monitoring of the under-development nuclear submarines and future conventional submarines of the Navy.

The project to build the Scorpene submarines was awarded to DCNS in October 2005 to build six Franco-Spanish Scorpene-class diesel attack submarines at the Mazagon Dock in Mumbai. The deal involved extensive technology transfer agreements.

In what is considered to be a major breakthrough by the DRDO, towards achieving self reliance in critical underwater technology, defence scientists have developed the air independence propulsion (AIP) system which is expected to help Naval submarines remain submerged for much longer, reducing the need for the vessels to surface for breathing air. The conventional submarines of the Indian Navy fleet were lacking this critical technology making them vulnerable as they need to surface at regular interval to suck the air (oxygen) which is required to keep submarines batteries running.

On the other hand, submarines of the arch rival Pakistani Navy, mostly procured from France, are equipped with the AIP. The AIP would be in form of a fuel cell which will replace the diesel component of the conventional submarines. The system would be put to test on Scorpene submarines being built in Mazagon Dock, Mumbai, with the help of France. “Last two of the six Scorpene submarine will be equipped with indigenous AIP system,” the scientists said, adding that next six submarines to be built in Indian shipyard under technology transfer from a foreign vendor shall also have this critical component. AIP turns a conventional submarine into a vessel which is very similar to nuclear powered one, as they also need not to surface to breathe oxygen. The Indian defence scientists started working on the project four years ago, which has entered into final stage now.

The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by Arun Jaitley while clearing Project-75I under which next six submarine are to be built through “Make in India” route, has also given an in-principle approval that indigenous AIP system will be fitted on these future vessels.

In June 2011, DCNS India signed a contract with Flash Forge India, under the Scorpene submarines programme (P75), to manufacture equipments which were to be installed onboard the Scorpenes. The Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) for the first locally made Scorpene equipment was successfully performed at Flash Forge premises in Visakhapatnam in January 2012.

SEC Industries in Hyderabad was involved in making 14 key components that can be fitted directly into the Scorpene submarines. The components include ballast vent valves, high pressure air cylinders, hull hatches and weapon handling systems.

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