The recent sea trial gives a major boost to India’s indigenous submarine building programme
In recent years, the Indian Navy has been focusing on developing indigenous platforms, systems, sensors and weapons as part of the nation’s modernisation and expansion of its maritime forces. Towards this, Kalvari, which is the first of the Scorpene class submarines, being built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Mumbai (MDL), went to sea for the first time early this month. This underwater war machine is being built in Mumbai in collaboration with French companies.
Defence analysts said the commissioning of Kalvari will be a re-affirmation of India’s capability to build submarines and a major boost for the ‘Make in India’ programme of the government. With 30% indigenous components on board, the ‘Made India’ submarine is part of the ongoing project for the construction of six Scorpene class submarines.
Kalvari sailed out under her own propulsion for the first sea trial, off the Mumbai coast and during the sortie, completed a number of preliminary tests on the propulsion system, auxiliary equipment and systems, navigation aids, communication equipment and steering gear. During the next few months, the submarine will undergo a barrage of sea trials, including surface trials, diving trials, weapon trials, noise trials etc. These trials would test the submarine to the extremes of its intended operating envelop. Thereafter she would be commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Kalvari later this year.
The state-of-art features of the Scorpene include superior stealth and the 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, whilst underwater or on surface. The stealth features give it invulnerability, unmatched by many submarines.
At some point the Scorpene submarines would be fitted with the air independent propulsion (AIP) technology being developed by the Maharashtra-based Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL). This AIP enables a submarine stay underwater for longer periods without having to constantly surface to charge its batteries; the last of the six boats being built in the country may benefit from the system. It converts methanol-like substances to produce hydrogen, which is the fuel that runs the cell in producing electricity. While diesel engines need oxygen to function, these cells are air independent. The system also emits less noise, increasing its stealth—the most critical feature of a submarine. With this system, a conventional submarine that needs to surface every three to four days for replenishing its oxygen supply, can stay underwater for up to two weeks.
Indian Navy officials informed that 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 types of missions typically undertaken by any modern submarine, that is, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying, area surveillance etc. They are built from special steel, capable of withstanding high yield stress and having high tensile strength, thereby allowing them to withstand high hydrostatic force and enabling them to dive deeper to further enhance stealth.
Kalvari is being built according to the principle of modular construction, which involves dividing the submarine into a number of sections and building them in parallel. The equipment is mounted onto cradles and then embarked into the sections. The complexity of the task increases exponentially as it involves laying of around 60 km of cabling and 11 km of piping in extremely congested and limited space inside the submarine. The array of weapons and complex sensors fitted on board the Scorpene are managed by a high technology combat management system, which integrates various diverse systems fitted onboard into one system.
Kalvari is the dreaded Tiger Shark, a deadly deep sea predator. As is the tradition, ships and submarines of the Navy, are brought alive after decommissioning. The first Kalvari, which was also the first Indian submarine, was commissioned into the Indian Navy in December 1967. She was decommissioned on 31 May 1996 after almost 30 years of yeoman service to the nation. The commissioning of Yard 11875 (Kalvari), will not only mark a generational shift in technology, insofar as submarine construction in
India is concerned, but also for submarine operations by the Indian Navy.