The fifth Scorpene class conventional submarine was commissioned into the Indian Navy as INS Vagir in the presence of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar at Naval Dockyard Mumbai on Monday. The sixth and last of the French-origin Scorpène-class submarines being built in India under technology transfer is currently undergoing sea-trials and will be delivered to the Navy in 2024, the original manufacturer Naval Group said.
With this, the Navy now has 16 conventional and one nuclear submarine in service. It includes seven Russian Kilo class submarines, four German HDW submarines, five Scorpene class submarines, and the indigenous nuclear ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.
“Vagir will be the third submarine inducted into the Navy in a short span of 24 months. This is no small achievement, and underscores the coming of age of India’s shipbuilding industry, and the maturing of our defence ecosystem. It is also a shining testimony to the expertise and experience of our shipyards to construct complex and complicated platforms,” Admiral Kumar said, speaking at the commissioning ceremony. “These aspects also serve to reinforce the Indian Navy’s unequivocal commitment and steadfast resolve to be a fully Aatma Nirbhar force by 2047.”
The Navy chief further complimented the submarine’s Commanding Officer and his team for pushing through “all major trials, including those of weapons and sensors, within a short span of just 11 months”.
The name Vagir is a reincarnation of the erstwhile Vagir, a Soviet origin Foxtrot Class submarine, which was commissioned on November 01, 1973 and was decommissioned on January 7, 2001 after serving the country for three decades. Vagir takes its name from the sand shark, a deadly deep sea predator of the Indian Ocean. In the Navy, it’s a time-honoured naval tradition that “old ships and submarines never die”, Admiral Kumar noted.
Vagir was launched into water on November 12, 2020 and commenced sea trials on February 1, 2022.
The sixth and last of the Scorpene class submarines, Vagsheer, being built by the Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), was launched into water in April 2022 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy by the end of 2023.
Six Scorpene submarines are being built under Project-75 by the MDL under technology transfer from the Naval Group of France under a $3.75 billion deal signed in October 2005. The project is about four years behind schedule. The first submarine, INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017; the second submarine, INS Khanderi, in September 2019; the third was INS Karanj in March 2021; and the fourth one, INS Vela, joined the service in November 2021.
Parallelly, the tender to build six more advanced conventional submarines under Project-75 is in the Request For Proposal (RFP) stage but has suffered delays. Navy officials said recently that the concerns of submarine manufacturers have been addressed and progress is expected soon.
With delays in submarine induction, the SSK-209s (German HDWs) and EKMs (Russian Kilos), are being put through the Medium Refit Life Certification process, which will give them an additional life of 10 to 15 years.
The Navy has drawn up plans to install Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) modules on all Scorpene submarines as they go for their refit in the next couple of years, beginning with INS Kalvari, to enhance their endurance. The development of an indigenous AIP module developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation is in advanced stages.