New Delhi: With the PLA Navy of China expanding rapidly and increasing aggressive posturing in the Indo-Pacific, India is looking to upgrade its submarine deterrence in synergy with its QUAD partners.
According to media reports, the Indian Navy is expected to approach Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for acceptance of the necessity for three air independent propulsion (AIP) equipped diesel attack submarines to be built at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in collaboration with the French Naval Group.
According to reports, the contract to build three AIP submarines will be given to MDL based on specific requirements of the Indian Navy. MDL has already built six Kalvari class, based on the French Scorpene class, submarines for the Indian Navy with the sixth INS Vagsheer expected to be commissioned into the Navy before March 2024.
The AIP fitted into the three submarines will be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization but tested and validated by the French Naval Group. The same AIP will then be retrofitted in the Kalvari class submarines when they come for mid-life overhaul at MDL.
In the backdrop of the AUKUS alliance members US and UK planning to supply the third member Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, India is looking to upgrade its submarine fleet with three nuclear-powered conventional weapon-armed submarines in collaboration with France on lines of the latest 4765-ton Barracuda class. As per the AUKUS deal, the US will sell three Virginia class submarines to Australia in the 2030s with the option of buying two more, and in the parallel design and develop AUKUS class submarines in collaboration with the British. The Virginia class submarine has displacement of over 10200 ton and is powered with a nuclear reactor using 97 per cent weapons-grade enriched uranium.
While the decision to go for nuclear attack submarines may take procedural time, India is expected to get one nuclear attack submarine from Russia on lease as part of the past contract to replace the previously leased INS Chakra in 2025. This deal was signed much before the Ukraine war with India adhering to the payment routine.
India needs to upgrade its sea-based deterrence in the context of the rapidly expanding Chinese Navy with the present strength of eight Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines and 12 Shang and Han class nuclear attack submarines. With the PLA Navy operating two aircraft carriers with the third Fujian on the verge of being launched, it is only a matter of time when Chinese carrier strike forces will start patrolling the Indo-Pacific and resort to gunboat diplomacy in the region.