Navy gets INS Sindhukirti back, after nine-year wait - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 22 May 2015

Navy gets INS Sindhukirti back, after nine-year wait

INS Sindhukirti, sailing out on Thursday after refit

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd May 15

Indian Navy planners heaved a sigh of relief on Friday at the return of a frontline Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhukirti, which has been missing from the operational fleet through a nine-year “refit” (overhaul) in Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL).

The HSL chief, Rear Admiral (Retired) Nikunj Mishra, confirmed to Business Standard that INS Sindhukirti sailed out from the shipyard at 10:20 a.m. on Thursday and returned to harbour safely on Friday.

“The crew noted no defects, only some minor observations that will be addressed”, said Mishra.

INS Sindhukirti’s refit took so long that many defence experts believed the vessel would never return to operational service. After another of the navy’s eight Kilo-class submarines, INS Sindhurakshak, sank in an unexplained explosion on August 14, 2013, the Sindhukirti’s absence was felt even more keenly.

With its return the navy will have 14 operational submarines. Besides nine Kilo-class submarines of the so-called Sindhughosh-class; there are also four HDW submarines, referred to as the Shishumar-class. There is also the Akula class nuclear attack submarine that the navy has taken on lease from Russia.

While HSL has been severely criticised for taking nine years to refit Sindhukirti, Business Standard revealed (September 2, 2014, “Russia delayed sub refit to weaken shipyard?”) that the refit might have been deliberately prolonged by Russian experts to ensure that future Indian submarine refits were entrusted to Russian shipyards rather than to HSL.

Earlier Kilo-class refits in Russian shipyard, Zvezdochka, took an average of two and a half years each, and cost hundreds of crore rupees each. Zvezdochka experts who supervised the Sindhukirti’s refit at HSL knew they were assisting a potential competitor, which would indigenise the submarine overhaul business.

As Business Standard reported, each parameter of work that Zvezdochka experts ordered HSL to carry out on the Sindhukirti was several multiples of the work that the Russian shipyard had done while earlier overhauling INS Sindhughosh in Russia.

For example, the most time-consuming and expensive work during a refit involves replacing damaged hull plates. Zvezdochka replaced only three square metres of hull plates while refitting Sindhughosh in Russia. But for Sindhukirti, the Russian experts ordered 39 square metres --- 13 times as much --- hull plating to be replaced.

INS Sindhukirti’s refit has involved extensive modernisation. Like submarines refitted in Russia, its torpedo tubes were modified to fire Klub missiles at surface targets. But Sindhukirti also got additional capabilities: an MCA inertial navigation suite, a Palady nerve system, and a Pirit ship control console. Bharat Electronics Ltd has provided an indigenous Ushus sonar and a modernised CCS Mark II communications suite.

If Russia’s aim was to scuttle further refit orders to HSL, that has been achieved. In October the defence ministry cleared a Rs 4,800 crore refit for six submarines, with two each being refitted in Zvezdochka; in Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai; and in Naval Dockyard, Mumbai.

HSL will have to remain content with building two midget submarines, an order worth Rs 2,000 crore that the ministry cleared in February. Known as “strategic operations vessels” or SOVs, these small vessels ferry naval commandoes to enemy coastlines. 


  1. Sir,
    First let me confess that I am NOT a submariner and whatever I am writing here is from my civilian experience ! So it may be wrong in some cases. My sincere apology for that. But still few things are worth considering !
    1) Kilo class submarines are double hull. ( two shells, outer and inner and ballast tanks are in between to adjust buoyancy )
    2) It is very difficult to maintain ballast tank spaces. Considering narrow areas and frames. So if a good paint is not used during building stage or if due to some reason the paint got damaged in some place then that area will act as a sacrificial anode and the hull will get damaged due to rust formation. Only way to prevent this is to use a good marine ballast tank paint which can withstand at-least 15~20 years of vigorous use. And these types of paints are easily available in International market and even in India. ( but costly) Probably Russians did not use a good quality paint ( at building stage) so that we have to go to them for refitting !!
    3) There is another possibility of hull damage is water seepage thru. the joints of Anechoic tiles. ( or some tiles itself are missing) At that case only the outer-hull will get damaged. This problem can be controlled by regular inspection. If some tiles are damaged then immediately it should be repaired otherwise that area will act as sacrificial anode and will get damaged vary fast.
    Prevention is better than cure.

  2. Is this equivalent to sindhurakshak that exploded ?

  3. Its incredible that HSL's lawyers were so incompetent that they did not include late delivery clause in contract to penalize Russian contractor.

    Even contract for constructing apartments for common man has late delivery, how can anyone believe that HSL did not include late delivery for such high value equipment.

  4. Sigh of relief that the Sindhukirti is back!! Much needed. Now please operationalize the Scorpenes and the Arihant ASAP. Also please reach a decision on the P75I-get the Saryu from Japan instead of the amphibious planes, we really need long legged and capable subs who are not hangar queens.

    Coming back to the shipyard in question- was involved with the shipyard in question on business few times from 2007-12. Very un-professional, tardy and a sarkari culture prevails there!!! Can't blame the Russians. 39 sq mts of hull replacement does not take 9 years-i could understand if it took 4 instead of 2.

    Feedback for you Ajay-Please report impartially. When you are bringing the dirty laundry of the Russians, please report on the past performance of the HSL yard. The GoI realizes that. The Scorpene is also delayed but MDL is not to blame save that it took a lot of items into the ToT bucket-there was no gap in professionalism and gaps in expertise when a submarine line lies idle for 2 decades. The French or Russians squeezing our balls is a given-you have to work with that.

  5. Total conventional subs in service are 13, not 11 - 9 remaining kilos and 4 209s. Plus te Akula class.

  6. this shows that the indian navy and shipyards can deliver when push comes to shove. i is good that after the recent submarine problems, action has been taken to stabilize things.

  7. surprise... culmination atv project... behold... sindhukirti... out...

  8. @ Somnath Mukherjee

    Noted and corrected, thanks. Careless error.

  9. Dear Sir

    Can you write an article about the DAMAGE done by AK Antony and Man Mohan SIngh to Indian Armed forces

    And could you also write about the
    APPEASEMENT of Pakistan
    by NOT allowing Indian Army to fire back on LOC


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