New Delhi: The Indian Navy will operate a mix of nuclear and conventional diesel-electric submarines in the future to deal with the threats around the country, according to a senior government official's statement on Monday.

The announcement comes against the backdrop of the Australian Navy's decision to cancel its USD 90 billion deal with France for building conventional submarines and opt for building nuclear boats only.

“For the Australian Navy, the threat is more in the open oceans and the areas around that area. The decision to scrap a conventional submarine deal makes sense for them. While for us, the need is to tackle threats both near our coastal areas as well as in the open seas. That is why the Indian Navy would build a fleet which would include both nuclear as well as conventional submarines,” the official said.

The official further added that for a country like India, having a mix of both types of submarines makes more sense economically, as the cost of operating and building nuclear attack submarines is more than double the cost of building conventional diesel-electric submarines.

The official was commenting on the ongoing debate on whether India and other navies should follow suit and go for building only nuclear submarines as they are more capable and stealthier than conventional submarines.

The entire project to build six nuclear submarines under the Kalvari class (Scorpene) boats for India would come around Rs 25,000 crore on completion, whereas the proposal to build the first three nuclear attack submarines by the Defence Research and Development Organisation at its Submarine Building Centre would cost more than Rs 50,000 crore. Even though the cost difference between nuclear and conventional submarines is substantial, nuclear boats provide a huge capability for navies as the boats can stay under water for months without the need to come out on the surface at regular intervals as is required by conventional boats to charge their batteries.

The Indian Navy has plans to operate 24 new submarines, of which six are of the Kalvari class, six would be built under the Project 75 India whose tender has been issued and a proposal for building six nuclear submarines is pending with the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Decision on the last batch of six submarines under the plan would be taken at a later stage, the sources said.

At present, India has a fleet of Russian-origin Kilo Class, German-origin HDWs and an indigenous ballistic nuclear submarine in the form of the INS Arihant. Five nuclear submarines are planned to be built under the Arihant Class project, which is separate from the 24 submarine programme. World over, major navies like the American, French, British and now Australia have switched over to nuclear submarine fleets only, but the Chinese and Russian navy operate a mix of both nuclear and conventional submarines, the official said.