Stealth and Strength: Third Scorpene submarine, INS Karanj, joins the naval fleet - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 10 March 2021

Stealth and Strength: Third Scorpene submarine, INS Karanj, joins the naval fleet

After Project 75, six more subs with “air independent propulsion” will be built under Project 75-I. Then comes Project 76 to build 12 more submarines.

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 11th Mar 21

The Indian Navy commissioned its third Scorpene (French for “scorpion”) submarine, INS Karanj, into service on Wednesday. The submarine has been built at Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai under transfer of technology from French shipyard, Naval Group.


In keeping with hoary naval tradition, the Karanj took its name from an earlier Foxtrot-class boat (as navies traditionally refer to submarines) that India bought from the Soviet Union in 1969 and decommissioned in 2003. 


The chief guest at the commissioning in Mumbai was former navy chief, Admiral VS Shekhawat, who was part of the commissioning crew of the old Karanj. He went on to become its commanding officer during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, and was awarded a Vir Chakra for exceptional gallantry.


INS Karanj is the third of six conventional submarines (INS Kalvari is the first) for which the navy signed a Rs 18,798 crore contract in 2005 with French-Spanish submarine consortium, Armaris. That company was 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.


The Scorpene building programme, termed Project 75, is running six years late. All six submarines, called the Kalvari-class after the lead vessel, will only be delivered by 2023.


They will supplement the navy’s four Shishumar-class boats bought from German firm, HDW; and nine Russian-origin Kilo-class submarines, making up a total of 19 conventionally powered boats.


In addition the navy operates a nuclear-powered attack submarine called INS Chakra, on a ten-year lease from Russia; and an indigenously designed and built, nuclear-powered, nuclear missile submarine, INS Arihant.


That is well short of the navy’s requirement of 24 conventionally-powered and six nuclear-powered attack submarines.


“INS Karanj would form part of the Western Naval Command’s submarine fleet and would be another potent part of the command’s arsenal, announced the ministry of defence (MoD) on Wednesday. 


This means it will primarily operate in the shallow waters of the Arabian Sea, blockading Pakistani ports and naval bases in wartime and destroying enemy warships with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. 


Submarines could also be used to blockade shipping from entering the Arabian Sea through the Strait of Hormuz. In a war with China, Indian submarines would blockade the entrances from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.


The Karanj, which displaces 1,565 tonnes, is powered by a quiet “Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor” that drives it underwater at 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour) and at 12 knots (22 kmph) while surfaced. There are plans to retrofit all six Scorpenes with advanced “air independent propulsion” after 2023-24.


The Karanj is armed with the heavyweight, 533-millimetre, wire-guided Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedo, acquired in the 1980s from Germany for the navy’s four Shishumar-class submarines. In addition, it packs the Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile, built by the Franco-British-Italian conglomerate, MBDA. 


“Its combat edge is highlighted by the fact that it has 6 weapon launching tubes (and) 18 weapons (including) torpedoes, missiles and mines,” stated a Naval Group release. 


For detecting enemy targets the Karanj uses sonar and ranging equipment that is integrated into a digital Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS). This includes a Low Frequency Analysis and Ranging (LOFAR) sonar, which detects and classifies targets at long ranges (exact ranges are a closely guarded secret). Its periscopes are equipped with infrared and low light cameras and laser range finders. 


“The Scorpene submarines are one of the most advanced conventional submarines in the world… More deadly and stealthier than their predecessors, these submarines are equipped with potent weapons and sensors to neutralise any threat above or below the sea surface,” the MoD said. 


Following Project 75, six more submarines with “air independent propulsion” will be indigenously built under Project 75-I. After that will come Project 76, which involves the indigenous design and construction of 12 more submarines.


  1. More subs are required for a two front war. Aircraft carrier will be swamped without stealth. SATELLITE DRONES IN 2030 WILL BE ABLE TO TRACK MOVEMENT 24/7

  2. I guess these are still without their frontline weapons, modern torpedos!?

  3. These subs still lack their HW torpedos. What's the progress on that front ? The original order for the Black Sharks were cancelled 3 years ago. There was some chatter about procuring F21s from DCNS but no progress seems to have been made. It seems we are launching toothless sharks into the ocean.


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