Launched with a coconut, INS Vaghsheer will boost India’s submarine fleet - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 20 April 2022

Launched with a coconut, INS Vaghsheer will boost India’s submarine fleet

INS Vagsheer, the last of the Scorpenes, is the reincarnation of a diesel-electric boat that the Soviet Union supplied in 1974


Ajai Shukla

New Delhi, 21 April 22


The world’s navies, who all hold their customs dear, traditionally launch or commission warships with a lady smashing a champagne bottle into the bow of the vessel. Not Queen Elizabeth II, however — the long-reigning British monarch — when called upon in 2014 to commission the pride of the Royal Navy: Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth, the aircraft carrier named after her illustrious, 16th century predecessor.


The monarch, however, was not about to use a French beverage to commission a British carrier. Instead, she did the honours by smashing a bottle of Bowmore single malt scotch whisky, recognising the shipyard in Rosyth, Scotland, where the 65,000-tonne carrier was assembled.


Nor does Indian custom involve the use of champagne or single malt. Instead, the chosen female chief guest smashes a coconut over the vessel’s bows. This was followed on Wednesday, when the defence secretary’s wife, Veena Ajay Kumar, launched the sixth and last Scorpene (French for scorpion) submarine at Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai.


The submarine, so far referred to as Yard 11880, will now be called INS Vagsheer. It will be the reincarnation of an earlier diesel-electric boat (submariners refer to their vessels as “boats”) that the Soviet Union supplied in 1974.


The first of the navy’s six Scorpene submarines — INS Kalvari — was commissioned into the navy fleet in December 2017. Four Scorpene submarines of this project have already been commissioned into the navy — INS Kalvari, Khanderi, Karanj and Vela.


The fifth submarine, INS Vagir, is undergoing sea trials and is likely to be commissioned later this year.


INS Vagsheer, the last submarine of the line, will now begin checking its equipment, after which “harbour trials” will begin, followed by the rigorous “sea acceptance trials”. If all goes well, the submarine will be delivered to the Indian Navy by late 2023.


In 2005, the navy signed a ~18,798-crore contract with French-Spanish submarine consortium, Armaris, for six Scorpene submarines. Armaris was taken over by France’s Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS), and its cost went up to ~23,562 crore. In June 2017, DCNS changed its name to Naval Group.


The Scorpene class of submarines is primarily suited to operate in the shallow waters of the Arabian Sea, where larger submarines tend to scrape against the seabed even when far out at sea.


Its small size lends itself to approaching and blockading Pakistani ports and naval bases in wartime and sneaking up on enemy warships to destroy them with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. It could also be used to blockade shipping from West Asia, entering the Arabian Sea through the Strait of Hormuz.


The six Scorpene submarines significantly boost the navy’s aging fleet of 12 conventional submarines. These include four 30-year-old, German-origin HDW Type 209 boats (called the Shishumar-class); and eight Russian Kilo class 877EKM vessels (called the Sindhughosh class).


The new Kalvari displaces 1,565 tonnes. It is 67.5 metres long and 12.3 metres high and is powered by a quiet “Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor” that drives it underwater at 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour, or kmph) and, while surfaced, at 12 knots (22 kmph).


  1. I think there are only 8 kilo class submarines in the fleet now .there were 10,one lost due to accident and the other gifted to Burma if I'm not mistaken

  2. Built with the help of our wonderful ally Russia

  3. Will the older 10 submarines be decommissioned by 2030, leaving India with only 6 attack submarines at that time?


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