• Experts say India has lost a decade in modernising its submarine fleet, while China has marched ahead in its larger naval and more specific submarine capabilities.
  • Submarines first became a major factor in naval warfare during World War I (1914–18), also played a similar role on a larger scale in World War II (1939–45).

Important points:

  • Currently, India has 15 conventional diesel-electric submarines, classified as SSKs, and one nuclear ballistic submarine, classified as SSBN. Most of India’s submarines are over 25 years old, and many are getting refitted.
  • The 30-year plan (2000-30) for indigenous submarine construction, approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999, envisaged two production lines of six submarines each, built in India in partnership with a foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
  • The projects were called P-75 and P-75I.
  • It anticipated that India would get the 12 new submarines by 2012-15. Subsequently, India would make 12 of its own by 2030, taking the fleet size to 24, with the older submarines getting decommissioned.
  • But the contract for P-75 was signed only by 2005, with France’s DCNS, now the Naval Group.
  • It will be India’s first under the Strategic Partnership Model, which came up in 2015.


  • India’s underwater fleet continues to lack the requisite teeth despite the fact that high seas are the only domain in which India can checkmate China given its natural geographic advantages.
  • China already has the world’s largest navy with 350 warships, including 50 conventional and 10 nuclear submarines.
  • There are other significant shortfalls of the Indian Navy including essentials capacities such as “Advanced Towed Array Sonars (ATAS) to detect enemy submarines, heavyweight torpedoes to neutralize them, and varied air defense systems, all of which are critical not only to their survivability, but also their overall offensive capability.
  • India cancelled a deal for the heavy-weight Black Shark torpedoes, built by the Finmecannica subsidiary WASS, as a result of an unrelated corruption scandal that involved another subsidiary of Finmecannica, Augusta-Westland.

Way Forward

  • Unless the gap in naval prowess must be mitigated quickly, India will be handicapped further in countering China’s desire to dominate the Indian Ocean.
  • The defence bureaucracy must quickly address the modernisation delay if India is to walk the talk on Quad (India, Australia, USA and Japan) and its Indo-Pacific ambitions.


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