All about Indian Navy’s crucial Scorpene submarines

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 24, 2016 14:00 IST
India has ordered six Scorpene-class submarines in a deal worth $3 billion. The first of the submarines built at the Mazagon Docks in Mumbai (in picture) began sea trials in May. (HT File Photo)

The data leak about the Scorpene-class submarines’ secret combat capabilities has turned the spotlight back on the Rs 23,562 crore project and its importance for the Indian Navy.

The controversy has erupted as India prepares to deploy its first French-designed diesel-electric version early next year. The leak , running to 22,400 pages, could prove an intelligence bonanza for India’s rivals such as Pakistan or China, The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Read | Scorpene submarine data leak: Indian and French authorities order probe

The documents detail key capabilities of the submarines, including the frequencies at which the vessels gather intelligence, their diving depths, range and endurance and the specifications of the torpedo launch and combat systems.

Here’s all about the submarines that are expected to become the mainstay of the navy’s fleet:

The project

Scorpene submarines are being constructed at the Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai under a programme called Project-75. French shipbuilder DCNS has provided technology for the project.

The 66-metre submarine can dive up to a depth of 300 metres to elude enemy detection. India has ordered six Scorpene-class submarines in a deal worth an estimated $3 billion.


Kalvari, the first of six submarines being built in India, is currently undergoing sea trials, including weapon testing.

The trials are likely to be completed by the year-end, paving the way for its induction into the navy early next year.

The remaining submarines are likely to be delivered to the navy by 2020.


The navy is betting on the Scorpene project to sharpen its underwater attack capabilities.

India operates 13 ageing conventional submarines and an Akula-II nuclear-powered attack boat leased from Russia.

The Indian fleet consists of Russian Kilo-class and German HDW class 209 submarines. Limited serviceability is also an issue - not all these boats are battle ready at any given point of time.

India’s sub-sea warfare capability pales in front of China’s. The Communist neighbour operates 53 diesel-electric attack submarines, five nuclear attack submarines and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Packing extra punch

India plans to equip the fifth and sixth Scorpene boats with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. With that, the submarines can recharge their batteries without surfacing for more than three weeks.

Conventional submarines have to surface almost every second day to operate their air-breathing diesel engines, running the risk of detection.


The navy was supposed to induct its first Scorpene submarine in 2012. However, the project was delayed due to problems relating to the transfer of technology.

In 2009, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) came down heavily on the government for giving undue favours to DCNS while awarding the submarine deal in 2005.


With an eye on the swift expansion of the Chinese fleet, India is exploring the possibility of collaborating with a foreign vendor to build six more next-generation submarines.

At Rs 64,000 crore, it would be one of the costliest projects under the Make in India programme. The navy calls it Project-75 (India). DCNS plans to compete for the lucrative project with an advanced version of its Scorpene submarine.

Other contenders include German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems with its HDW class 214 submarine, Spain’s Navantia S-80 class and Sweden’s Saab Kockums’ with its A26 submarines.

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