The fourth Kalvari-class conventional submarine Vela will be commissioned on November 25, while its fifth and sixth submarines will be inducted next October and end of 2023

The last of the four Project 15B stealth guided missile destroyers, Surat, will be commissioned by 2024, the Indian Navy said on Tuesday as it prepares to commission the first one, Visakhapatnam, on November 21.

Moreover, the fourth Scorpene class conventional submarine, Vela, will be commissioned on November 25 while the fifth and sixth Scorpene-class submarine will be undertaken next October and end of 2023.

Visakhapatnam, which is the first of the four Project 15B class destroyers, has been indigenously designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design and constructed by Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai.

The total cost of the Project 15B would be around Rs 35,000 crore. The contract for the project was signed in 2011. Defence minister Rajnath Singh will be attending the commissioning ceremony.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Navy’s vice chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said the commissioning of Visakhapatnam will reaffirm India’s presence amongst the elite group of nations with capability to design and build advanced warships.

Stressing that the overall indigenous content of the project is about 75%, Ghormade said the destroyer is also installed with major indigenous weapons such as Indigenous Medium Range Surface to Air Missile Systems by BEL, Bangalore, Surface to Surface Missiles by Brahmos Aerospace, Torpedo Tubes and Launchers by L&T, and Gun Mount by BHEL.

Senior Navy officers said construction of Project 15B destroyers is progressing well even as there was some delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After Visakhapatnam, Mormugao is expected to be commissioned by 2022, Imphal by 2023 and Surat by 2024.

He further said with the commissioning of Vela, the Navy will thus obtain yet another potent platform in its arsenal.

“Submarine building is a sophisticated exercise involving placing small components sequentially and logically inside the submarine as the space within is extremely constricted. Very few countries possess this ability in their industrial capacity,” he said.

He further said India has proven its capability to build its own submarines for the past 25 years. “Both warship and submarine building has immensely benefited the Indian industry as they too are able to align to the stringent quality control standards that these platforms demand,” he said.

Navy officers said evaluation bids for heavyweight torpedoes for the Scorpene-class submarines is currently underway and Italian firm Leonardo, parent body of AgustaWestland, is not in the fray. The ban on this firm was recently lifted by the defence minister. He said the Navy is backing the indigenous air independent propulsion system being developed by DRDO for Scorpene-class submarines.

Plans on Track To Add 170 Ships

The vice chief said Navy’s plan to add 170 ships is on course even as there could be revised timelines, according to the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan, which should be ready by next year. The Navy currently has 130 ships and submarines.

Earlier, the Navy had targeted a 200-ship force but has later decided on scaling it down to 170 because of budget constraints.

Right now, 39 Naval ships and submarines are under construction at various shipyards, he said.

He said the 30 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Predator drones that India seeks to procure from the US will move to the Defence Acquisition Council in a short while. It was discussed at the Defence Procurement Board. Navy is the lead service for procuring the 30 armed drones.

He said this is a time when global and regional balances of power are shifting rapidly and most changes are seen in the Indian Ocean Region.

“Continuous efforts are therefore on to ensure that our force levels grow progressively to enhance the capability of Indian Navy to meet the emerging challenges,” he said.

In September this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Vivek Lall, CEO of General Atomics, which manufactures the armed predator drones.

Vice Admiral Ghormade further said both third aircraft carrier and submarines figure in the long-term planning of the Navy.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had earlier said there is a greater need for procuring more submarines for the Indian Navy as compared to a third aircraft carrier.