The Indian Navy to operate a mix of the nuclear and conventional submarine fleet

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Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal is a Defence and Aerospace Journalist with his articles/works on various digital and print media platforms. He is an Anchor/Host and Correspondent associated with several News Media Organizations. He is responsible for Digital Media and Defense reporting at Frontier India. *Views are personal

The Indian Navy will operate a mixture of both nuclear and conventional submarines in order to deal with threats around the nation, said an Indian official.

Keeping the need to tackle threats both near coastal areas as well as open seas in view, the official told the news agency ANI that the Indian Navy would build a fleet that would include both nuclear as well as conventional submarines. 

All about Nuclear Submarines

These types of submarines are powered by a nuclear reactor but are not necessarily nuclear-armed. A nuclear submarine is equipped with nuclear propulsion which avoids the need for a submarine to surface frequently which usually is the case with conventional submarines. 

The nuclear reactor of the submarine generates a large amount of power thereby allowing nuclear submarines to operate at high speed for long periods of time. It is said that current generations of nuclear submarines do not require to be refuelled throughout their 25-year lifespans.

Nuclear attack submarines have been taken on lease by India from Russia for the last three decades and back in 2019, a USD 3 billion deal was sealed with Russia by India for leasing a nuclear-powered attack submarine for the Indian Navy for a period of around 10 years. Under the deal, the Akula class submarine which is to be known as Chakra-III is to be delivered by Russia to the Indian Navy by 2025.

Ongoing status

According to an official, although the cost of operating and building nuclear attack submarines is said to be more than double as compared to the building cost of conventional diesel-electric submarines, having a mix of both types of submarines makes more economic sense.

The official added that the entire project for building six nuclear submarines under the Kalvari class (Scorpene) boats for India is estimated to be at a cost of around Rs 25,000 crore on completion while the proposal to build the first three nuclear attack submarines which are said to be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is believed to cost more than Rs 50,000 crore.

Although there is a substantial cost difference between the nuclear and conventional submarines, a huge capability is provided by these nuclear boats as they can stay under the water surface for days and months which is not possible for conventional boats because, in order to charge their batteries, conventional boats need to come to the surface at regular intervals.

Future plans

24 new submarines are being planned to be operated by the Indian Navy of which six are of the Kalvari class while another six would be built under Project 75 India with its tender already been issued and in order to build six nuclear submarines, the proposal still stands pending with the Cabinet Committee on Security. 

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

A fleet of Russian-origin Kilo Class, German-origin HDWs along with an indigenous ballistic nuclear submarine in the form of ‘INS Arihant’ is currently being operated by the Indian Naval Forces. However, apart from the above mentioned 24 submarine programme, five nuclear submarines were re-planned to be built under the Arihant Class project.

Although major navies like the American, French, British and now Australian have already switched over to nuclear submarine fleet only, a mixture of both nuclear and conventional submarines are still being operated by the Chinese and Russian Navy.

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