India will soon induct INS Kalvari, the first of the Indian Navy’s six Kalvari-class submarine being built in India.
However, the new line of conventional submarines will operate without their crucial weapon system, torpedoes.
It is because the Modi government has scrapped the long-pending Rs 1,800 crore proposal to buy heavy-weight torpedoes from a subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica to arm the six new Scorpene class submarines.
The deal to buy 98 torpedoes from Finmeccanica’s subsidiary was approved by former defence minister AK Antony in January 2014.
Defence manufacturer Finmeccanica has been blacklisted after it paid bribes to sell a dozen VVIP choppers to India.
Earlier in May, the INS Kalvari, the first of six diesel-electric submarines, sailed out of the Mazgaon docks to have systems tested ahead of being commissioned in a few months into the Navy.
However, without her torpedoes, Kalvari is basically a gun without bullet. The only other weapons onboard are French-designed Exocet missiles which are designed to strike enemy ships, not submarines.
Reports say defence minister Manohar Parrikar has directed officials to urgently look for “an alternative” to the “Black Shark” torpedoes manufactured by Finmeccanica subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS).
The Black Shark torpedoes have an edge over the Seahake torpedoes of the German Atlas Elektronik Gmbh, and the Navy is hopeful that a “special exception” would be made on the ground of “critical operational necessity.”
According to reports, the Scorpene class submarines’ have already been customised to integrate its fire-control system with the Black Sharks. And inducting another type of torpedo will cost more and take time.
Heavy-weight torpedoes are the primary stealth weapons of diesel-electric submarines to take out enemy warships and submarines, even though they also have some anti-ship or land-attack missiles.
All the six submarines are being built at the Mazagon Dock Ltd with technology from French firm DCNS under an over Rs 25,000 crore project called P-75.
Indian Navy, in desperate need of modernization especially given China’s aggressively upgraded Navy, wants to include all the six Scorpene class submarines by 2020. At the moment, it currently has only 15 elderly Russian and German designed submarines.