In a big boost to the country’s ‘Make in India’ dreams, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), India’s leading maritime warfare solution provider, on Thursday delivered Kalvari, the first of the six diesel-electric submarines being built in India under Project – 75, to the Indian Navy. The delivery of Kalvari by the state owned shipyard marks the beginning of a new era in the Navy’s illustrious history even as India’s silent warriors celebrate 50 years of glorious service.

Kalvari, the lead ship of Program -75 designated as Kalvari-class submarines, had commenced exhaustive sea trials on May 1st 2016 under the watchful command of the Indian Navy. The delivery of the submarine signifies that it has successfully completed all test parameters as deemed necessary by its user and that the submersible platform is now ready for induction.

MDL, the lead builder for the program, has in a statement, said “History was written at MDL on September 21, 2017 with the delivery of the first Scorpene submarine, Kalvari, to the Indian Navy. Post delivery, the submarine would soon be commissioned into the navy.”

The submarine according to MoD sources is expected to be inducted into the force in mid-October in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at its homeport – INS Kadamba in Karwar, following which the submarine is expected to slip into the dark waters of Arabian Sea on combat patrols.

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Kalvari captured during its sea trials along the Mumbai Coast Line; Courtesy – MDL, India.

The delivery and the induction of Kalvari according to senior submariners are expected to set a new precedent in the Navy’s quest for inducting under-water combatants to boost its preparedness levels across its vast operational horizon. The induction of Kalvari is being viewed as a reprise to India’s silent forces, which currently rely upon aging Kilo-class and Type-209 diesel-electric submarines for mounting effective sea denial missions.

Even as Kalvari braces for induction, her sister ship, Khanderi, the second of the six Scorpene-class submarines is at an advanced stage of sea trials. Having successfully completed a series of simulated deep dives and numerous ultra-quiet patrols at varying conditions, she is expected to begin her weapon trials in the near future. Karanj, the third submarine under Program – 75, is at an advanced stage of outfitting and is expected to be launched by the year-end.

P – 75 (Program – 75), under which these submarines are being constructed, is running at least five years behind schedule owing to multiple roadblocks the manufacturer encountered along the development cycle. Both MDL and the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Naval Group (formerly DCNS) remains optimist that the manufacturing pace could now be picked up and that a single submarine could be delivered to the navy every nine months. All the six submarines, according to MDL, would have joined the navy by 2020.

Capabilities of Kalvari-class submarines

The Kalvari-class submarines, displacing close to 1,750 tonne, is based around the feared Scorpene-class diesel-electric hunter killer submarines, which are designed by French based maritime solution provider Naval Group (formerly DCNS). Powered by twin diesel-electric engines, these platforms are capable of attaining speeds up to 37 KM/Hr when on combat patrols.

Featuring one of the most advanced electronic power units, these submarines can sail at almost zero-noise underwater, a capability which is critical when on ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions. Acoustical and thermal data collected during these ISR missions, where the submarine tails a high-value naval target such as an aircraft carrier group or a hostile submarine, will prove vital when mounting combat operations in war times.

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The Tiger Shark of Indian Navy – INS Kalvari; Courtesy – MDL.

In order to make the submarines nimble and efficient, the underwater combatants have been equipped with some of the most advanced electronic and sensor suites, which are clubbed with the state-of-the-art SUBTICS (Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System) tactical platform management suite. This not only boosts the battle theatre awareness of the submariners but will also help in enhancing the coherent functioning of various sub-systems fitted on the submarine.

Primarily being a hunter killer submarine, Kalvari is equipped with six 533mm mts torpedo tubes, which can carry up to 18 heavy weight torpedoes. For neutralising surface and land targets, the submarine is fitted with MBDA manufactured SM-39 Exocet anti-shipping missile, which are capable of striking targets up to 50 kilometres away. This robust mix enables the submarine to provide effective sea denial capabilities to the Navy.

Kalvari – Beckoning Star in India’s Quest to Realise ‘Make in India’ Dreams.

Program -75, under which the Kalvari-class submarines are taking shape, is one of the first serious efforts put in by India to make the country self reliant in defence equipment manufacturing. Under the program, MDL, the state-run shipyard, is constructing six advanced submarines in collaboration with the OEM – Naval Group.

The OEM in an effort to establish a self sustained ecosystem in the country has engaged multiple Indian MSMEs like SEC, Flash Forge and HBL. This working partnership has enabled equipment to be locally manufactured in the categories of Float (Hulls, Hatches, Ballast Valves), Move (Steering Consoles) and Fight (Weapon Handling). It has further been instrumental in cementing partnerships with French MSMEs to enter into tie-ups and joint ventures with Indian MSMEs to deliver locally manufactured equipment in India – Coyard Flash Forge is one such example of a joint venture according to the company.

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A Pictorial Representation of the Make in India mission undertaken by MDL and Naval Group; Courtesy – Naval Group.

According to industrial experts, the elaborate technology transfer that took place between Naval Group and MDL has not only enabled the Indian shipyard to manufacture submarines but has provided the country with a sound industrial ecosystem to indigenise equipment for not just P75 submarines but also for all concurrent and future maritime programs. Naval Group India remains confident of enhancing the indigenous content aboard these submarines to about 30% by the time the sixth submarine construction is taken up.