In a first, Indian Navy submarine docks in Indonesia

Such operational turnaround significantly enhances the reach of Naval assets

February 24, 2023 10:43 pm | Updated 10:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The submarine travelled through the Sunda Strait and undertook the maiden docking in Indonesia for Operational Turnaround. Photo credit: Twitter/@indiannavy

The submarine travelled through the Sunda Strait and undertook the maiden docking in Indonesia for Operational Turnaround. Photo credit: Twitter/@indiannavy

In line with the expanding military cooperation with South East Asian nations, an Indian Navy Kilo class conventional submarine, INS Sindhukesari, docked in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the first time from February 22 to 24.

“Highly enriching engagements with the Indonesian Navy conducted during port call, strengthening maritime partnership between India and Indonesia towards safer and secure Indo-Pacific,” the Navy said on Twitter.

The submarine, which was on operational deployment, travelled through the Sunda Strait and undertook the maiden docking in Indonesia for Operational Turnaround (OTR), a defence source said. Naval ships regularly make port calls to countries in the region, the source stated.

The OTR in Jakarta, over 2,000 nautical miles away from its home base in Visakhapatnam, significantly expands the area operational reach of the submarine arm near crucial shipping lanes and the strategic Malacca Strait. In the past, Indonesia gave access to its Sabang port to Indian Naval ships for operational turnaround.

India has steadily expanded its defence and security cooperation with countries in the region, many of which are engaged in disputes with China in the South China Sea.

In recent years, India has signed logistics support agreements with several countries to enhance reach and sustenance of military assets while deployed far from home.

Also read: Explained | Indian-made Scorpène-class ‘silent killer’ submarine INS Vagir 

The Navy has 16 conventional submarines in service, seven Russian Kilo-class, four German-origin HDW submarines and five French Scorpene class submarines. With the Kilos and the HDWs ageing, a Medium Refit cum Life Certification (MRLC) programme is underway to increase their life. INS Sindhukesari, which was inducted in February 1989, underwent the MRLC at Severodvinsk, Russia in 2018.

Of the 10 Kilo class submarines originally procured from Russia, Sindhurakshak was lost in an accident, Sindhuvir was transferred to Myanmar and Sindhudhvaj was decommissioned in July 2020 after 35 years.

Meanwhile, another Kilo class submarine, INS Sindhukirti, reached Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL), Visakhapatnam for Normal Refit. “INS Sindhukirti, a Russian-made submarine that had undergone mid life upgrade at HSL in 2015, today returned to HSL for Normal Refit of 22 months,” the HSL said on Twitter.

A third Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhuratna, which has completed MRLC in Russia, is stuck there because of non-availability of transport due to the war in Ukraine. The Navy has also looked for an option to sail in Norway and then move it in a sea-lift vessel to Mumbai. However, that too hasn’t fructified, it has been learnt.

India has offered to sell its military hardware which has been positively received by many. For instance, Philippines is the first export customer for the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for which Indonesia and Thailand are also in talks with. Earlier this month, 21 Philippines Navy personnel were trained on the BrahMos systems as part of the $375 million contract signed in January 2022. Indonesia has also expressed interest in the Light Combat Aircraft among others.

The Kilo class submarines have a displacement of 2,300 tonnes, a maximum diving depth of 300 metres, top speed of 18 knots, and are able to operate solo for 45 days with a crew of 53.

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