INS Kalvari and the Birth of Indian Submarines

On December 8 this year, President Ram Nath Kovind awarded President’s color, the highest honour to a military unit, to the Submarine Arm of the Indian Naval Services. But it was back in 1956 that the origin of submarine arm began.

Eight years post independence Pakistan was building its military might. United States announced to transfer naval support to Pakistan by supplying One Cruise, Four Destroyers and some Submarines. Looking at the growing closeness of Pakistan with the US and China, Indian Navy recognised the need to develop anti-submarine equipments and a strong warfare resilience against the neighbouring powers Pakistan and China.

Indian Navy established Torpedo and Anti-submarine School and Tactical School focussed more on theoretical knowledge, but lacked practical training. INS planned to setup a submarine trained cadre of 38 Officers and 65 Sailors. In 1961, the first batch of this cadre was thus sent to Britain for practical training under the Royal Navy.

In 1965, Russia offered to supply India with four submarines, one submarine depot, two lady ship tanks and five patrol boats. From 1967, the four submarines, INS Kalvari, Karanj, Khanderi and Kursura, started arriving at the Indian shore. INS Kalvari, the first one, was commissioned in December 1967. Till 1990, India had a total of 17 submarines.

By November 2017, the count of submarines with Indian Navy has dipped down to 14 – nine Sindhughosh class (diesel electric powered), four Shishumar class (diesel electric powered) and one Arihant class (nuclear powered) submarine. With the commissioning and reincarnation of INS Kalvari on December 14 this year, we now have a strength of 15 submarines, short of 2 submarines by 1990 count.

Project 75 and Project 75I of the Indian Navy is aimed to improve the naval strength of the country by commissioning 12 more submarines. Six submarines made under Project 75 would be made in collaboration with a French company. While the next six submarines under Project 75I would be made indigenously.

INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class submarine for the country, is the first submarines under Project 75. These are being made by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilder Limited in partnership with French company M/S Naval Group.

The submarine is one step forward for the country’s armed forces. One, because it comes with state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System that allows it to remain undetected underwater for 21 days. This makes it even more efficient than nuclear-powered submarines. Two, it comes with Exocet anti-ship missile, manufactured by M/s Naval Group, which is the best technology available to the world. This missile is an advantage because it remains undetected till it reaches the target.

This anti submarine warfare is also a way ahead for Make in India programme since it is being produced in India with aide of an Indian company. And also because of technological support of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).

DRDO has developed Varunastra, a torpedo with range of 40 kms, for Kalvari to enable launch attack. Alongwith this DRDO has also developed an Advanced Indigenous Distress SONAR System for Submarines (AIDSSS). The organisation is also developing indigenous AIP system for the country.

Project 75 is not a mere horse trade for Indian Navy. But it is an attempt at strengthening the naval warfare of the country. Raveen Janu, Associate Fellow at Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) calls submarines the ultimate stealth weapons. “Despite advances in sonar technology over the decades, detecting, tracking and targeting submarines remains extremely difficult, particularly in the Indian Ocean where the salinity of the seas and the presence of thermal zones of variable water temperature, make submarine detection extremely difficult,” he shares on the official website of CLAWS. Technological novice is a priority today.

INS Sindhushastra being the last submarine inducted by the Indian Navy in 2000, the development of anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare has become a requisite for India.