India’s attempts to lease the SSN from other countries such as the US have been rebuffed at the military-to-military level over the past decade. It is not known whether political efforts are being made for such acquisition. Read Sandeep Unnithan’s report.
Indian Navy will be strengthened by nuclear powered submarine
At the height of one of the ongoing border disputes between India and China over the past decade, Navy’s lone nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), INS Chakra, sailed out of Visakhapatnam port. INS Chakra dived into the Bay of Bengal and went missing for over a month. Very few people in the government know about his posting.
INS Chakra headed east a few thousand nautical miles where she occupied a patrol station and successfully completed her mission. This was a rare deployment of an Indian strategic asset in remote seas.
It proved that India can take a naval retaliatory action against Chinese aggression. The selection of the only SSN leased from Russia was not surprising. They are capable of operating independently and discreetly in enemy waters.
ability to disappear indefinitely
In combat conditions, they are better than conventional submarines. Their nuclear reactors can cover a distance of 30 nautical miles. They can remain underwater almost indefinitely and can attack warships and engage targets with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
That is why AUKUS, a military alliance of the US, UK and Australia, chose SSN as the base of its military alliance against China, in San Diego on March 13 by US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese The landmark announcement will see the UK and US equipping the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) with SSNs.
The US has 50 and the UK has SSNs. The RAN will first lease the Virginia class SSNs from the US and later design and build a new SSN, the AUKUS class, with US assistance.
AUKUS is a response to China’s naval expansion. Navy Chief Admiral Hari Kumar said in a lecture on March 14 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has added 148 warships in the last decade, equal to the entire Indian Navy. Navy needs more SSNs to counter this growing disparity.
Chakra was taken on lease from Russia in 2012 and returned in 2021. A second lease (where India paid $3 billion (Rs 21,000 crore) for an in-service Russian SSN) was signed in March 2019. But there are indications that the vessel may miss its 2026 deadline.
India’s current fleet of two indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) is a means of nuclear deterrence and is unavailable for strategic missions (see SSBNs as bombers and SSNs as fighter jets).
Rs 48,000 crore project
The Rs 48,000-crore project to manufacture three indigenous SSNs is pending approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) since 2019. The SSN project was started two decades ago but was shelved as the government gave priority to the project of building four Arihant class SSBNs. In February 2015, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar gave in-principle approval to create six indigenous SSNs.
In 2018, a plan was decided to make six indigenous 77 class SSNs in 15 years. The project will produce its first unit in a decade and subsequent units in the next five years. In 2019, the government scaled it down to just three units citing its high cost, but it is still awaiting approval.
In case of war, India is building a strong ASW capability by acquiring MH-60R helicopters and P-8 Poseidon aircraft to hunt Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. The rapidly shrinking Indian conventional submarine arm means that it will have less capability for offensive operations such as intercepting Chinese ships transiting the Ombai Wetter, Sunda, Lombok and Malacca straits in the Indian Ocean. This has reduced the ability to strike in Chinese waters or maintain a sustained presence near the straits.
When will India get nuclear submarine?
Naval analyst Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande (retd) sees SSNs as vital for sea control and attack as they are equipped with long-range anti-ship missiles and communication linkages.
This formidable capability comes at a heavy cost. SSNs are the most complex naval platforms and countries have struggled to fit submarines with high-capacity nuclear reactors. He was the fifth and last member to join this exclusive club when China created its first SSN in 1974.
India’s attempts to lease the SSN from other countries such as the US have been rebuffed at the military-to-military level over the past decade. It is not known whether political efforts are being made for such acquisition.
American scholars such as Ashley J. Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have suggested that France provide SSN technology to India. But it is not clear whether efforts are being made in this direction or not. What is known is that increasingly sophisticated imaging satellites and weapons such as ballistic missiles hitting Chinese ships have increased the need for larger ships such as aircraft carriers.
The need for SSN is increasing
The need for SSN will increase in the coming times. For example, Brazil could become the sixth country in the world to create and operate its own SSN. Its first indigenous SSN, built with the help of France, will be introduced in 2032.
The US and the UK are planning to double their SSN fleets over the next two decades. However, they are also helping Australia to increase its submarine attack power. The purpose of the Aukas is to exploit the weak anti-submarine capabilities of the Chinese Navy.
A March 23 article in the US Naval Institute Proceedings suggests that although China has deployed new ships in the first decade and a half of this century, they lacked several, such as Todd-array and variable-depth sonar systems.
ASW During World War II, Imperial Japan lost its surface fleet, troop ships and merchant marine vessels to US Navy submarines. Due to which its economic collapse and the end of its empire came to an end. SSN can ensure a peaceful Indo-Pacific.
Click to read the original report in English.