India may explore the possibility of leasing a few kilo-class submarines from Russia, government sources said.
With the INS Sindhurakshak likely to be written off, the navy’s submarine arm will be left with just 13 conventional submarines — two of which are under repair.
And most of them have lived 75% of their operational life.
A navy official said scaling up the capabilities of the submarine fleet was a priority and “all available options” would be explored.
Leasing new submarines from Russia would ultimately be a politico-commercial decision, officials said.
“The navy should lease at least two conventional submarines from Russia as building or buying more may take a lot of time,” former navy chief admiral Arun Prakash said.
The navy’s underwater capabilities are currently at a highly precarious state.
It will be left with merely seven to eight submarines, including a nuclear attack submarine leased from Russia, INS Chakra, in the coming years, as it will phase out the older Russian kilo-class and German HDW Type 209 submarines.
Submarine-induction in the navy has been fraught with time and cost overruns.
Had the government adhered to the original capacity building plan cleared in 1999, the navy should have inducted 12 new conventional submarines by now and an equal number by 2030.
“The last of the submarines of the Sindhugosh-class was inducted in 1999-2000. This shows a big lacuna on part of the government in assessing the situation,” said Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar, one of the country’s leading defence and strategic experts.
Strategic experts claimed that the government was obsessed with designing landbased plans to counter India’s neighbours instead of focusing on the navy.
This despite the fact that the Indian Navy is required to undertake the task of not only protecting the 7,500km-long coastline, but also more than 1,200 islands, and 2.2 million square kilometres of exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“The Indian Navy is more like a Cinderella Service. It paid a heavy price, because of the inability of bureaucrats and politicians to arrive at the right strategic assessment,” said Bhaskar.