New Delhi: With the emergence of Indo-Pacific as the new strategic frontier, the Indian Navy has briefed the government of its requirement to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to counter the challenge on high seas in a post pandemic world.
While discussing the Indian Navy’s operation Samudra Setu II on May 3, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh mentioned the requirement of SSNs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The nuclear powered attack submarines will give Indian Navy the much needed long legs for deterrent patrols and access denial in the Indo-Pacific without giving away its position. The SSNs only need to surface for food supplies and other logistics and can go for long distance patrols with conventional weapons and missiles on board. As of now, India has one Akula class SSN, which is on lease from Russia, and one indigenously build ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) with another joining the strategic forces command next year.
It may be noted that Navy is still to approach the Union ministry of defence for acceptance of necessity. The national security planners are concerned about China adding 12 SSNs to its fleet apart from seven ballistic missile submarines to its strike force. And for this very reason, French SSNs base at Toulon and French SSBN base at Brest were on the agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France (now cancelled) around the May 8 India-EU summit at Lisbon. While the India-EU summit was reduced to virtual summit, the physical bilateral visit to France was postponed to a later date.
Although the Indian Navy has no preferences, the national security planners are looking at France, the UK, the US and Russia as possible partners for joint development of SSNs in India under Atmanirbhar Bharat programme.
France is one of the most trusted allies of India and has offered to jointly develop the SSN with India with full transfer of technology. The French Naval Group is one of the key contenders for the SSN project.
It is already building six diesel attack submarines (called Kalvari class) for India which will be retrofitted with air independent propulsion technology developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Earlier this week, Admiral Singh called on Prime Minister Modi and briefed him about various initiatives being taken by the Indian Navy to assist the people of the country during the pandemic. The Admiral said the Navy has reached out to all state administrations and have offered help to set up hospital beds, transportation and conduct of vaccination drives and deploying its ships to ferry oxygen containers and essential medical supplies from various countries.