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Navy submarine SOS to Centre

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The navy has sounded an SOS to the government on its fast depleting submarine fleet and is taking emergency measures to fill the void.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, said this week the navy had briefed the political leadership on the consequences of the depletion. He said the INS Sindhurakshak, which sank in Mumbai on August 14 after a suspected blast in its weapons compartment, was a major loss but the disaster was not unique to the navy.

“These (incidents) are isolated and separate cases. The reasons do not derive their linkage from previous cases. Operational risks are fraught in this business of armed forces,” he said.

Among the measures being taken are equipping or re-equipping surface ships of the navy with anti-submarine warfare devices and extending the life of torpedoes in six HDW-class German-origin submarines. The rest of the submarines in the fleet are Russian-origin Kilo-class submarines (of which the INS Sindhurakshak was one).

The navy has about 14 submarines. But only about half are available at all times because the others would either be going through refits or being serviced. The delivery of six Scorpene submarines, contracted for nearly Rs 24,000 crore, is delayed and the navy expects the first boat only in 2015.

The navy has moved a proposal for a second line of submarines — called Project 75i — whose necessity has been accepted by the Defence Acquisitions Council but the government is concerned about the resources that can be made available.

In the interim, the navy has contracted Atlas Elektronik, a German firm, to extend the life and range of its heavyweight torpedoes that arm four Type 209 Shishumar-class (HDW) submarines.

The navy is in negotiations with Atlas to contract Active Towed Array Sonars (ACTAS) for six surface ships (three destroyers and three frigates).

Atlas Elektronik executives said the ACTAS contract was nearly complete but navy sources said it was still being examined and the ministry was yet to take a call. They confirmed that the upgrade of torpedoes has been contracted.

Khalil Rehman, chief executive officer of Atlas in India, said the company has also offered to the navy a new torpedo called the SeaHake mod4 ER. The torpedo has a speed of more than 50 knots and is capable of hitting targets up to 140km.

The towed-array sonars that are being negotiated are meant for large anti-submarine warfare.

The Indian Navy is particularly keen on anti-submarine warfare measures after Pakistan commissioned six French-origin Agosta submarines.

(Part of the information in this report was made available during a recent trip to Germany by the correspondent. The visit was sponsored by Atlas Elektronik)