Navy finds defects in Scorpene submarine; one more year of delay - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 14 June 2019

Navy finds defects in Scorpene submarine; one more year of delay

The navy insists on the removal of 36 defects in INS Khanderi before it will commission the submarine

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th June 19

Project-75, which involves building six Scorpene submarines in Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), was already running five years late by the time the first one, INS Kalvari, was commissioned on December 14, 2017.

With the navy reporting a host of problems in the second vessel, INS Khanderi, Project 75 has now slipped by at least one more year. The navy has refused to commission the Khanderi into service until all its defects and deficiencies are fully rectified.

The defence ministry has fully supported the navy’s insistence that MDL and its technology partner, French warship builder Naval Group, must deliver a fully seaworthy and battle-worthy vessel. 

“The liability of delivering a fully functioning submarine is that of Naval Group. If we accept the boat with shortcomings, the liability would be on us”, said a senior admiral.

The most worrying problem the navy discovered during the Khanderi’s sea trials was a killer defect for a submarine: Its engines and propellers were emitting an unduly high level of noise.

A submarine’s effectiveness in battle, and its very survival, depends upon it remaining undetected. Enemy sonar detectors – mounted on aircraft, warships and submarines – search relentlessly for sounds emitted by enemy submarines. Once detected, a submarine is easy meat for enemy depth charges or torpedoes.

Khanderi’s noisiness is not its only problem; the navy has pointed out 35 other defects and has demanded they be rectified before it commissions the vessel. 

Nor can these problems be addressed quickly, since 29 of them require to be tested when the sea is absolutely calm – or in what is termed “Sea State – 1”. With the monsoon imminent, calm seas are unlikely before September.

Another four issues require the submarine to be docked in a navy dockyard for testing. This runs up against an existing docking schedule that dockyards have already issued, involving numerous other warships.

Meanwhile, the third Project-75 submarine, INS Karanj, has just begun trials. It is unclear whether there will be as many problems as with the Khanderi.

The Indian Navy and MDL both declined to comment for this article. However, neither denied the existence of numerous defects in the Khanderi.

For the navy, which is making do with just 14 conventional submarines against a requirement of 24, the INS Khanderi delay extends a dangerous operational void. Over recent years, both the navy’s nuclear submarines, the indigenous INS Arihant and the Russia-leased INS Chakra, have been out of action for extended spells after accidents stemming from poor seamanship. In the case of the former, seawater entered the submarine from a hatch carelessly left open; the latter scraped its sonar dome against the seabed.

Project 75 kicked off in 2005, when the navy signed a Rs 18,798 crore contract for MDL to build six conventional submarines, with technology transferred by Franco-Spanish consortium, Armaris. All six Scorpenes were to be delivered between 2012-2015, but the sixth will only be delivered now by 2022. 

Meanwhile, Armariswas taken over by France’s Direction des Constructions Navales Services(DCNS), and its cost went up to Rs 23,562 crore. In 2017, DCNS changed its name to Naval Group.

Besides INS Kalvari, the navy’s 14 conventional submarines include four 20-30 year-old, German-origin HDW 877 EKM boats (called the Shishumar-class); and nine 10-20 year-old, Russian-origin Kilo class Type 209 vessels (called the Sindhughosh-class).

In addition to five more Scorpenes, six more conventional submarines are planned to be built under Project 75-I, by an Indian firm in partnership with a foreign vendor. Tendering for that is still to begin.


  1. The Navy's submarine acquisition program seems jinxed. This latest problem comes after the leak of sensitive technical details about the Scorpenes, exposed by a Australian newspaper. This does not augur well for the next program to build conventional subs in India, the P75I.

    Isn't it about time we dropped this piecemeal, stumbling approach of spending decades trying to source foreign submarine designs, only to build a measly 4-6 units in India at exorbitant cost, interminable delay and compromised fighting capability? If India can build its own nuclear boats then why can it not develop and build an indigenous conventional submarine, a design we can control and improve over time, build in large numbers without concern about leaked data and so forth? Several of the systems that would go onto such a sub are already available in India. The Brahmos anti-ship missile, in future the Nirbhay land-attack missile, the Varunastra torpedo, the USHUS and Panchendriya sonars can be modified, the hull and quieting can be developed utilizing experience gained from the Arihant program and so on. What we lack in terms of engines, periscopes and batter technology can be sourced from overseas. The manufacturing experience that MDL has hopefully gained from the Scorpene can be put to use. For a navy that designs and builds its own surface combatants including destroyers and aircraft carriers, as well as SSBNs in India, it is curious why the IN sticks to this absurd approach when it comes to conventional subs.

    Building just 6 Scorpenes and another 6 P75Is is not going to suffice. Even the Pak Navy is to soon have 8 modern Chinese boats and the Bangladesh Navy 2, against India's projected 12. India needs a force of around 24 conventional boats and another 12 nuclear attach boats in addition to the SSBNs to wield a credible offensive capability and keep the Chinese and Pak navies at bay. Such numbers can only come from a concerted indigenous program that we are capable of.

  2. You have the names and class of the submarines wrong.
    Please check :

    Zero credibility for this material esp coming from a person who supposedly wore uniform .
    Not the first you are making mistake.


  4. This is why - Involve the private sector in making warships.

  5. ajai sir

    correct the misakes

    its not

    German-origin HDW 877 EKM boats (called the Sindhughosh-class); and nine 10-20 year-old, Russian-origin Kilo class Type 209 vessels (called the Shishumar class).

    but actually

    German-origin HDW Type 209 vessels (called the Shishumar class) and nine 10-20 year-old, Russian-origin Kilo class 877 EKM boats (called the Sindhughosh-class).

    hope you do it

    joydeep ghosh

  6. Sir
    Refer to penultimate paragraph,
    Ghosh is Russian & Shishumar is German.

  7. Diesel engine subs are supposed to be more quiet than nuclear.

    If French tech absorbtion is shows poor skillset under make in india.


  8. NSR says ---

    German-origin HDW 877 EKM boats (called the Sindhughosh-class)


    Why there is no official statement in regular news?

    Too bad for India... I am sure France and Naval Systems DCNS will blame India, MDL, its workers for shoddy workmanship...

    I doo not think India will ever build these boats on their own … I am not sure the TOT has been done to India for it to build …

    This is the sad state of Indian defense...

    Russian Kilo class is one of the quietest and is called Blackhole...
    They mount the engines on rubber mounts so all the vibration is absorbed and not transmitted to sea so making it very difficult to detect it...

    Vietnam ordered 6 Kilo class boats for $1.8 billions... Good for them...

  9. a very large amount of mazdock work is offloaded to contractors who employ cheap bangldeshi labour workers . technicians .coupled with poor quality control , and poor manufacturing by indian industry using machines manufactured in 1970 to 2000 , the end product kalveri was bound to be built to unsatisfactory standards . naval group must be held accountable and these garuntee defects must be eliminated by the mazdocks or paymenyts cut to the naval group and contractors for shoddy work . new genration 5th and 7th gen cnc machines must be only allowed for fine accouracy together with laser and other latest tehniques .isi infilteration with other hostile foreign agencies sabotaging defence projects must be looked into .

  10. 2x better than Columbia class usa submarine and 3x better than husky class russian submarine say ssgn (SSN+SSBN) with Naval reactor on LEU FUEL given with new Combat Management System told and all technologies including dive depth much below depth of Columbia and husky Class and compatible tonnage of 16800 and 19700 tons compared to columbia class 20800 ton given along with MiRV warheads for Agni-3,4,5 serires of missiles (can be simulated for K-4, 5, 6 sereis of missiles) and all electric propulsion given. Similarly two steels of HY 163 and HY 178 already given for that. Also steel better than non-metallic German Type-212 and Soryu Hull and High end AIP+DRDO AIO combined tech for SSKs better than German, Swedish and Japanese given so also some other systems told for achieving 700 metres depth plus say much better than German Submarines or Soryu or other existing nuclear subrmarines. MaRV indicated the theory only.


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