New Delhi: In just over a year from today, the Indian Navy will add fifth Scorpene submarine to its fleet, a serious addition to the sagging conventional underwater fighting capabilities, taking the strength to 17 by 2021. This has been made possible with the successful launch of the vessel in waters today at the Kanhoji Angre Wet Basin of Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).
India’s Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik‘s wife Vijaya Naik did the honours, in the presence of Indian Navy’s Chief of Material Vice Admiral S. R. Sarma, Inspector General Nuclear Safety Vice Admiral S. V. Bokhare and Mumbai-based Western Naval Command’s Chief of Staff Vice Admiral R. B. Pandit.
Following COVID-19 pandemic protocols, Naik and his wife joined the event through video conferencing from Goa, while senior naval officers were at the naval headquarters in New Delhi. A small gathering of MDL officials in Mumbai supervised the launch of the submarine, christened Vagir.
MDL’s Chairman and Managing Director Vice Admiral Narayan Prasad (Retired) told the gathering that the Defence Public Sector Undertaking is ready to competitively bid for the future naval projects, including the next generation submarine programme of the Indian Navy codenamed Project 75(I) for which it has been shortlisted, based on the state-run shipyard’s infrastructure, skilled workforce and rich experience.
“MDL has always been at the forefront of the nation’s farsighted and progressive indigenous warship building programme. In fact, with the construction of varied ranges of combat platforms such as the Leander– and Godavari-class Frigates, Khukri-class Corvettes, Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Vessels, 1241 RE-class Missile Boats, Delhi– and Kolkata-class Destroyers, Shivalik-class Stealth Frigates, SSK submarines and the Project 75 submarines under its belt, the history of modern day MDL is synonymous with indigenous warship and submarine building in India,” the shipyard said.
“MDL’s contribution to national maritime security and nation building continues with the current ongoing construction of four P15B class Destroyers and four P17A Stealth Frigates.”
MDL, which has previously also built two of the four Indian Navy’s HDW-origin Shishumar-class of submarines that are in active service, will be competing against private sector Larsen & Toubro for the P75(I) project, which is expected to be worth at least Rs 45,000 crore ($6 billion).
Post launch, Vagir, codenamed Yard 11879, will undergo a very comprehensive and rigorous set of tests and trials for more than a year to ensure delivery of a fully combat worthy submarine, capable of operation in all modes and regimes of deployment, a statement from MDL said.
“After its launch today, Vagir will commence the setting to work of various equipment and the Harbour Acceptance Trials. The crew will subsequently sail the submarine for the Sea Acceptance Trials after which the submarine would be delivered to the navy,” the Indian Navy said in his statement.
Two submarines of the ongoing P75 Scorpene programme at MDL, done in collaboration with the French Naval Group – INS Kalvari and INS Khanderi – have already been commissioned into the Indian Navy, taking the current conventional vessels fleet to 14.
Of the nine Russian-origin Kilo-class submarines that were in service – one of the submarines INS Sindhurakshak was lost in a tragic blast at the Mumbai naval docks in Aug. 2013 – India has decided to hand over one of the vessels – INS Sindhuvir – to Myanmar for its naval personnel’s use for training.
The third submarine of the P75, is in the last phase of rigorous sea trials. The fourth Scorpene, Vela, has commenced her sea trials, while the sixth and last submarine, is being readied for boot together.
“The submarine under P75 would not have achieved the current progress without the unconditional support, course correction and active encouragement of the Department of Defence Production and the Indian Navy throughout its various phases of construction,” the shipyard said in its statement.
The Scorpene project is already delayed by over six years from its original delivery schedule. The Indian Navy had to rework its 24-vessel 30-year submarine building plan, approved 20 years ago. Only two of the 24 submarines planned over the 30-year period till 2030 has been delivered till date.
The next project for six next-generation submarines under P75(I) too is facing inordinate delay over the now globally notorious snail-paced decision-making capabilities of India’s Ministry of Defence. The P75(I) has not yet reached the stage of tendering. The P75(I) is a commercial bids programme, whereas P75 was awarded to MDL on a nomination basis by the Ministry of Defence.
MDL had had gone in for a market listing recently and its Initial Public Offering was a resounding success, oversubscribed 157.42 time. “Buoyed by this, and armed with our rich experience, skilled workforce and strategic location, MDL is ready for undertaking construction of the next generation warships and submarines for the Indian Navy,” the shipyard said.