India deploys 11 submarines, a first in nearly three decades

India achieved a major milestone for its Navy on Friday, as it deployed 11 conventional submarines for operations simultaneously, marking a significant event in three decades, according to sources at ThePrint.

This deployment stands in stark contrast to the submarine history of the past two decades, characterized by dwindling strength, accidents, and write-offs.

“It is indeed a significant milestone for us. Since I joined the Navy, I have not witnessed such a high level of simultaneous deployment. This was primarily due to the limited number of submarines in operations, with many undergoing refits or repairs, thereby impacting the fleet strength,” said a source with over 25 years of service, speaking to the media.

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Sources within the defense establishment noted that the Indian submarine fleet reached its peak strength in the early 1990s, boasting 8 Kilo-class submarines, four HDWs, and four Foxtrot submarines of Russian origin.

“Since then, the submarine arm has suffered setbacks. Even the delivery of the Scorpene submarines faced delays,” another source mentioned.

Presently, India operates 16 conventional submarines, comprising five Scorpene class (French), four HDWs (German), and seven Kilo-class (Russian), with an additional Scorpene class yet to be commissioned.

While India is set to operate 17 conventional submarines next year, sources emphasized that this would be merely on paper.

“What matters most is operational availability. The Scorpene submarines are new, resulting in higher availability rates. Following them are the German HDWs, renowned for their reliability and performance. These submarines are expected to remain operational for another 10-15 years,” the second source elaborated, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by the Navy’s submarine fleet.

The source further revealed that although India initially had 10 Kilo-class submarines, only seven remain operational.

“The Kilos are formidable, but their availability rates have declined. Despite upgrades, they won’t endure as long as the HDWs. Most were commissioned in the 1980s, and one has already been decommissioned. Another was refitted and transferred to Myanmar. The third, though new, was lost in a 2013 accident,” the source explained.

This ongoing situation suggests continued turbulence for the submarine arm.

Sources indicated that India is planning to acquire three additional Scorpene-class submarines, although the process of signing contracts and delivery will take time.

The Navy’s proposal to procure six advanced submarines with superior technology has faced significant delays, with the likelihood of the first being delivered by 2030 appearing slim, according to sources.

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