by Major Amit Bansal

When India signed the pact with Direction Des Constructions Navales (DCNS) or the Naval Group of France in 2005, we expected that our first Scorpene class Submarine will be inducted into Navy by 2014. However, prolonged delays and extremes of red-tapism delayed the project. 

When the present government took over in 2014, the first submarine was not even ready. Only the hull was laid down and the vessel was not even ready for sea trials. The five important sections of the hull were lying separately with no timelines as to when they will be welded together. This is a serious matter related to the security of the country as the submarine was laid down on 14 December 2006 and, after 8 long years, we were unable to see a ship in its shape. Certainly, it lacked a strong political will.

The Modi government, on taking over, ordered the speeding up of this program. On 30th July 2014, through a ceremony called “Boot together”, the sections of the hull were welded together in the presence of Defence Minister Mr Manohar Parrikar. Not only this, the government instructed work to start simultaneously on all six submarines and that we must operationalise them as soon as possible. 

The result of this political will is clearly visible to the public. The first submarine was constructed, fitted with equipment and sent for sea trials on 1st May 2016 and was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 14 Dec 2017. 

Not only this, the simultaneous work on other submarines was in full swing and as a result, the second vessel of the same category, INS Khanderi, was launched on 12 January 2017 and is expected to be inducted in the Indian Navy by mid-2018. The third submarine called INS Karanj is launched for sea trials today (31 January 2018) and is expected to get formally inducted into the Navy by the end 2018. Surprisingly, the hull construction of all the six submarines is now complete and all six of them will be inducted into the Navy by the end 2020. 

We not only commissioned our first indigenously made nuclear submarine INS Arihant in August 2016 but also launched the second vessel of the same category on 19 November 2017 which will be commissioned by the end 2018. Keeping in view of the fast pace of the project, all the four nuclear-powered submarines of Indian Navy are expected to be inducted by 2022. 

In all this, we saw a clear picture of political will. A country can be strong when its forces are strong and in today’s scenario, Naval Forces are very much important to dominate the sea. We saw two eras of the same project. First, from 2005 till 2014, for a long 10 years, even the hull of a single submarine was not ready and second, from 2014 to 2020, during a short span of six years, three full-fledged submarines are launched and next three will be launched too. 

The Project-75 was an ambitious project for Indian Navy. It involved the construction of attack submarines against countries which are equipped with stealth technology. These submarines can attack from a far distance and can also operate in tropics as well as the poles. Keeping in view of our western neighbour who currently operates 53 Diesel Electric, 5 Nuclear Attack Submarines and 4 Nuclear Ballistic Missile submarines, we are far behind. With our existing fleet of Russian Kilo Class and German HDW 209 class submarines, which are always facing serious serviceability issues, we don’t stand anywhere in comparison. 

Chanakya wrote about 2400 years back that “A nation with strong defensive and offensive capabilities can only benefit its public”. Somehow the previous governments failed to understand that. The defence of the country was always given last priority and instead of enhancing the budgets for the same, they kept on decreasing it with each passing year. 

Another interesting example of this lethargic political will is the procurement of artillery guns. it will be surprising to know that the last procurement of artillery guns happened in 1986, almost 30 years back. Nobody was bothered to see the state of the defence equipment for all these years. Our last procurement order for fighter aircraft Su-30MKI happened in 2000, 18 years back. The Army Air Defence which has the responsibility to save the country from any air or missile attack is still working on second world war vintage Russian anti-aircraft guns. 

The political will plays an important role everywhere. It is high time now that we speed up our defence production to cover up the mistakes, lethargy and delays caused by the previous governments. The international situation is volatile and keeping in view of the incidents on Indo-Pak LoC, South China Sea, middle east and Korean Peninsula, Indian forces may be required to prove its mettle once again in near future.