Cel­e­brat­ing the Golden Ju­bilee

50 years of sub­marines with the In­dian Navy

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Contents -

Vice Ad­mi­ral Arun Ku­mar Singh writes on ‘50 years of sub­marines with the In­dian Navy’, in­clud­ing a per­sonal ac­count of his in­volve­ment with the un­der­wa­ter arm, and fo­cus­ing on spe­cial events at Vishaka­p­at­nam dur­ing De­cem­ber 2017.

While this ar­ti­cle con­cen­trates on the ur­gent re­quire­ments of the In­dian Navy in gen­eral, it also fo­cuses on its Sub­ma­rine Arm, be­cause in De­cem­ber 2017, this Arm cel­e­brated its Golden Ju­bilee and also in­ducted its first con­ven­tional sub­ma­rine af­ter 17 years.

Be­tween 5–9 De­cem­ber, se­nior brass of the In­dian Navy and thou­sands of vet­eran sub­mariners (of­fi­cers-sailors) along with their spouses ( some flew in from USA, Canada, UK, Aus­tralia & New Zealand), met at the beau­ti­ful city of Vishaka­p­at­nam (or ‘Vishak’ as ‘the city of destiny’ is gen­er­ally re­ferred to), to cel­e­brate Golden Ju­bilee of the Sub­ma­rine Arm. His­tory records that our first four sub­marines, in­ducted be­tween 1967 to 1970 to form the 8th Sub­ma­rine Squadron were based in Vishaka­p­at­nam, which also has our first sub­ma­rine base (INS Vir­bahu) and Sub­ma­rine Train­ing School ( INS Satava­hana) be­sides be­ing the home port for our first SSN, INS Chakra (1988-91) and our present SSN, SSBN units.

Apart from get to­geth­ers, is­sue of first day cov­ers, book re­leases etc, other no­table events in­cluded an in­ter­na­tional sub­marineb­uild­ing sem­i­nar on 7 De­cem­ber, where I chaired one of the four ses­sions, a Pres­i­den­tial Ban­quet hosted by the CNS on 7 De­cem­ber for the Pres­i­dent, while on 8 De­cem­ber 2017, the Pres­i­dent re­viewed a cer­e­mo­nial naval pa­rade at the naval base in Vishaka­p­at­nam, where the Pres­i­dent’s Colour was pre­sented to the Sub­ma­rine Arm of the In­dian Navy on the 50th an­niver­sary of its found­ing.

The In­dian tri-colour was first hoisted on our first sub­ma­rine INS Kal­vari at Riga, Latvia, on 8 Dec 1967. Amongst the many vet­er­ans who at­tended the pa­rade was 89 year old Com­modore KS Subra­ma­nian, the first Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of In­dia’s first sub­ma­rine INS Kal­vari (he flew in from the USA).

The orig­i­nal INS Kal­vari was de-com­mis­sioned on 31 May 1996, but its rein­car­na­tion re­joined the In­dian Navy on 14 De­cem­ber 2017, when PM Modi for­mally com­mis­sioned the first French de­signed Scor­pene- class sub­ma­rine (built by Maza­gaon Docks Lim­ited, Mumbai) as INS Kal­vari.

It was nos­tal­gic in­deed when many vet­er­ans (in­clud­ing 89 year-old Com­modore KS Subra­ma­nian from the com­mis­sion­ing crew of the orig­i­nal INS Kavari) were present. Five more indige­nous Scor­pene- class sub­marines will here­after join the Navy, at the rate of one every year.

My wife and I at­tended all the Golden Ju­bilee func­tions in Vishaka­p­at­nam, while I also at­tended the com­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mony of the new INS Kal­vari at Mumbai , by PM Modi on 14 De­cem­ber 2017. Per­son­ally for me it was great meet­ing two gen­er­a­tions of a sub­mariner fam­ily linked to INS Kal­vari: the com­mis­sion­ing CO of the new INS Kal­vari (Cap­tain SD Me­han­dale) and his fa­ther vet­eran sub­mariner Com­man­der DG Me­hen­dale).

As a for­mer naval of­fi­cer and sub­mariner, it is my hope that the Pres­i­dent, Prime Min­is­ter and Rak­sha Mantri will sep­a­rately find time to spend a few hours un­der­wa­ter in a sub­ma­rine as was done in the past by Prime Min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi, Pres­i­dent APJ Ab­dul Kalam and De­fence Min­is­ter Ge­orge Fer­nan­des. Given the re­cent tragic sink­ing of the 32-year old Ar­gen­tinean sub­ma­rine ARA San Juan on 15 Novem­ber 2017, with loss of her en­tire crew of 44, it is vi­tal that In­dian Navy gets fund­ing for ad­di­tional sub­ma­rine since 11 of its 13 con­ven­tional subs have crossed their de­signed life of 25 years, and eight of these are over 30 years old.

With In­dia join­ing the Joint Sec­re­tary level talks in Manila in Novem­ber 2017 for the pro­posed quadri­lat­eral or ‘Quad’ of USA, Ja­pan, In­dia and Aus­tralia, to en­sure safety and free­dom of seas, this es­sen­tially mar­itime or­gan­i­sa­tion, if it fruc­ti­fies, will re­quire In­dia to in­crease the size of its largely home-built navy by greatly in­creas­ing its very mod­est naval an­nual bud­get of about $5 bil­lion or about $15 bil­lion in PPP terms (Chi­nese Navy bud­get is $40 bn in dol­lar terms and about $ 60 bil­lion in PPP terms) start­ing with the next bud­get in Fe­bru­ary 2018. It is doubt­ful if the pro­posed Quad, would take the form of a mil­i­tary al­liance, but may re­sult in shar­ing real time in­tel­li­gence and MDA (Mar­itime Do­main Aware­ness), co- op­er­a­tion in track­ing Chi­nese sub­marines and war­ships in the In­dian Ocean, along with pos­si­ble co-or­di­nat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to com­bat piracy and mar­itime ter­ror - none­the­less, with or

with­out the quad, the In­dian Navy needs ad­di­tional funds and po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

I write this with the ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing and be­ing briefed at var­i­ous ship, sub­ma­rine, air­craft, mis­sile build­ing fa­cil­i­ties in In­dia and abroad. An en­cour­age­ment our do­mes­tic in­dus­try needs is long term in­vest­ment and economies of scale. I may add that in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment for mar­itime op­er­a­tions in our long ne­glected strate­gi­cally lo­cated A&N and L&M is­lands needs to be ac­corded very high pri­or­ity.

While the In­dian Navy is do­ing ex­tremely well with about 34 indige­nous ships-sub­marines build­ing and an­other 20 more ex­pected to be con­tracted for in In­dian ship­yards, some crit­i­cal short­com­ings re­main: three items which would need ur­gent gov­ern­ment ap­proval for do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion, which in­clude con­ven­tional and nu­clear subs (SSK, SSN, SSBN) SSN, Mine Counter Mea­sures Ves­sels , light (4 tons) and medium (over 12 tons) mul­ti­role ship- borne he­li­copters. In­deed the In­dian Navy which has over the last 60 years built up a large team of highly com­pe­tent war­ship and sub­ma­rine de­sign spe­cial­ists, now needs to con­sider in­duct­ing air­craft, he­li­copter, UAV de­sign spe­cial­ists as well. And since Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) is the fu­ture of hu­man progress and also war­fare, its vi­tal for the Navy to cre­ate a cadre of AI spe­cial­ists. How­ever, since I am un­aware of the re­sults of the Indo-US talks on build­ing a 65,000 ton air­craft car­rier (IAC2) in In­dia, per­haps with the lat­est elec­tric propul­sion and EMALS (Elec­tro-Mag­netic Air­craft Launch Sys­tem), I have not writ­ten about that yet, but had com­mented about this in other me­dia (“N-car­ri­ers vs N-subs”), and am happy that the Navy has fi­nally de­cided that IAC2 will not be nu­clear-pro­pelled.

I now re­fer to some ar­ti­cles crit­i­cis­ing the In­dian Navy for ‘ aban­don­ing’ the indige­nous LCA ( Navy) jet fighter project, and send­ing an RFI (Re­quest for In­for­ma­tion) for 57 for­eign twin-en­gined jet fight­ers needed to op­er­ate from the indige­nous air­craft car­rier Vikrant (IAC1) when it be­comes op­er­a­tional in 2021 and also for the planned IAC2. The ac­tual facts about LCA ( Navy) are that the ADA-de­signed Te­jas LCA, made for the IAF was one ton heav­ier than en­vis­aged and the Naval ver­sion which re­quired ad­di­tional mod­i­fi­ca­tions (a drooped nose for bet­ter pilot vis­i­bil­ity and strength­ened un­der­car­riage with tail hook for ar­rester wire land­ing sys­tem on a car­rier) was two tons over­weight. Tri­als ashore on the Shore Based Test Fa­cil­ity at Goa, which repli­cates a air­craft car­rier flight deck on land, in­di­cated that the LCA (Navy) in its present form could not take off within the 195 me­tre deck run­way space with any worth­while load, nei­ther could it land on the car­rier. But true to its faith in in­di­geni­sa­tion, the In­dian Navy con­tin­ues to fund the naval ver­sion of LCA Mk2, with a more pow­er­ful Amer­i­can en­gine GE 414, re­plac­ing the present GE 404 which pow­ers the LCA Mk1.

Most crit­i­cally, with rapid growth of the Chi­nese Navy and its in­creas­ing pres­ence in the IOR, it is time the for the gov­ern­ment to give an ur­gent and sus­tained boost to In­dia’s Navy. Given enor­mous in-house ex­per­tise avail­able and ca­pa­bil­ity built up of do­mes­tic ven­dors, for nu­clear sub­marines, In­dia ur­gently needs to com­mence do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of SSNs in a separate pro­duc­tion line. The only In­dian plat­form ca­pa­ble of stealth­ily track­ing Chi­nese war­ships in the In­dian ocean and also pa­trolling in the west­ern Pa­cific to de­ter China is the SSN. Hope­fully, the Fe­bru­ary 2018 de­fence bud­get will bring good news for a home-built balanced three-di­men­sional In­dian Navy. The au­thor, Vice Ad­mi­ral Arun Ku­mar Singh is a sub­mariner, who was trained in the for­mer USSR on nu­clear sub­marines and mis­siles. His im­por­tant ap­point­ments as a two star in­cluded ACNS ( Sub­marines), Flag Of­fi­cer Sub­marines, Flag Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing East­ern Fleet. As a three- star he served as DG In­dian Coast Guard, C- in- C An­daman & Ni­co­bar Com­mand, and fi­nally re­tired in 2007 as FOC-in-C, East­ern Naval Com­mand.

The au­thor in front of INS Kal­vari

8 De­cem­ber 2017 dur­ing an evening din­ner at Visakha­p­at­nam (from left to right): Rear Ad­mi­ral and Mrs Ashokan, Vice Ad­mi­ral and Mrs Srikant, Vice Ad­mi­ral and Mrs AK Singh and Rear Ad­mi­ral

Photo taken on 8 De­cem­ber 2017 at Visakha­p­at­nam, with the Pres­i­dent of In­dia. V/Adm AK Singh is

INS Kal­vari, com­mis­sioned at Mumbai on 14 De­cem­ber 2017 by Prime Min­is­ter Modi

The Kilo-class boat INS Sind­hu­vi­jay

Photo taken on 5 De­cem­ber 2017 at Visakha­p­at­nam (left to right) are vet­eran Sub­mariners Vice Ad­mi­ral AK Singh (au­thor of this ar­ti­cle), Com­modore BS Up­pal, Rear Ad­mi­ral JMS Sodhi, Com­modore Arun Ku­mar

and by Com­modore S. Ka­put on the right

INS Sind­hu­rak­shak

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