After delays, Scorpene submarine now on track: Navy chief

December 2nd, 2010 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Admitting there was a downward trend in its submarine programme, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma Thursday said the gap would be covered when the nation gets six highly advanced French Scorpene vessels being built at a Mumbai shipyard.

“There was a downward trend because of the gap that took place. For 17 years, we didn’t commission any indigenous submarine. That is why this gap took place,” Verma told reporters ahead of Navy Day to be celebrated Saturday.

But he said the loopholes would be plugged when the Mazgaon Dock Ltd in Mumbai completes the ongoing Project-75 for six French Scorpene submarines that has already suffered almost a three-year delay.

“I think the Scorpene programme is on track. Yes there was some delay at some point of time. Now we are working to get Project-75, which will help us cover the gap,” he said.

The Indian Navy is facing a grave shortage of submarines. In another five-six years, more than half of its present fleet of 15 ageing diesel-electric submarines - 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and one Foxtrot - will become obsolete.

According to Project-75, the vessels were to roll out one per year from 2012 onwards. But that won’t happen and the navy now hopes that first submarine will sail in 2015.

Even the project cost escalated beyond the total Rs.20,000 crore as was initially agreed between the Indian defence ministry and the French company DCNS, which is fabricating the submarines.

In any naval war, submarines are believed to game-changers. And if armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, the vessel can be the most effective deterrent in present times.

The US and Russia plan to retain over 60 percent of their nuclear weapons in the shape of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) fitted on nuclear-powered submarines.

Though India does not have nuclear submarines or SLBM capabilities at present, it hopes to move forward by inducting the Akula-II class attack submarine K-152 Nerpa on a 10-year lease from Russia.

The 8,140-tonne submarine was to be delivered to the Indian Navy by December. But that is unlikely to happen now as the hand-over of the submarine got delayed and it would come only in 2011.

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