A series of recent accidents involving India’s kilo-class submarines have taken the shine off the crown jewels of Soviet-era military technology and raised questions about safety and reliability of the platforms inducted by the navy in the 1980s.
A senior navy officer said the boats were beset by problems of spares, upgrades and high maintenance costs, even as the force confronts the spectre of an unprecedented dip in its undersea attack capabilities.
The submarine force levels will be the lowest in the navy’s history by 2015, with a mere five to six boats left in the fleet, as reported by HT on April 9, 2013.
But the navy insists the modern Russian warships in its fleet are world-class.
“Old Russian equipment will continue to give us trouble. But it’s nonsensical to suggest we operate leaky boats,” said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.
The induction of six Scorpene submarines, currently being built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai, will begin only in 201617, five years behind schedule. The Rs 23,562-crore project, codenamed P-75, is being executed with technology transfer from French firm DCNS.
Likewise, India’s largest and most-expensive warship, the INS Vikramaditya, was delivered to the navy by Russia last November, nearly five years behind schedule.
Other delayed projects include the Akula-2 nuclear-powered submarine, the indigenous aircraft carrier, the indigenous nuclearpowered ballistic missile submarine and acquisition of the Barak-I anti-missile defence systems.
The navy plans to induct six more next generation submarines to deter China but the defence ministry is yet to float a global tender for the Rs 55,000 crore project.
But overall, the navy has been ahead of the other services in inducting new equipment and spending funds allocated for modernisation.
Russia may have lost its monopoly as India’s top military supplier, yet it remains a trusted one.