India expanding submarine force to meet China threat
The government of India has approved $10 billion in funding to vastly expand and improve the Indian Navy’s undersea warfare capabilities. Shipbuilders in France, Germany, Russia and Spain are this week lining up bids on the new Indian Navy project which comes less than a year after $18 billion was funded to equip the Indian Air Force with new Rafale fighter aircraft.
The new project includes next generation diesel-electric attack submarines to augment the current fleet which consists of 10 Kilo Class of Russian design; four modified German Type 209 Class and two nuclear powered Akula Class attack submarines leased from Russia. An additional six Scorpene Class diesel-electric submarines of French & Spanish joint design are being built at India’s Mazagon Dock Ltd. shipyards.
Though the total number of new submarines has not been decided, the newer subs will be larger than the six Scorpenes currently building and would include both land attack missile capability and air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems; developed by Swedish naval engineers allowing a diesel-electric submarine to run their ‘air breathing’ engines at low power in conjunction with batteries while submerged for three or more weeks almost as stealthily as a nuclear submarine.
Defense analyst and international security experts alike often ponder confusedly as to why India feels the need for a powerful ‘blue water’ navy in a region with no serious naval power present aside from the United States with whom India has had more or less friendly relations since the end of British rule in 1947; the answer of course being China.
India and China have had tensions off and on since Communist China’s victory over the Nationalist Chinese in 1949. The two nations finally came to blows in a brief border war in 1962. China is a long time supporter of India’s arch nemesis Pakistan. Until recently however, there was no serious naval threat posed to India by China’s minor coastal naval force; separated by the whole of Southeast Asia from the Indian Ocean.
However in tandem with Chinese naval expansion was an expansion of inroads in the Indian Ocean region with purchases of local sea port facilities and airports or investment in joint ventures to expand such facilities or build new ones in partnerships with Burma, Thailand, Seychelles and Pakistan. Projects particularly troublesome to India since all Chinese companies are owned in some fashion by the Chinese government despite the widely held belief in Chinese ‘privatization’.
The sea ports and air ports would provide China bases from which to operate naval aircraft and vessels against Indian seaborne commerce and naval forces on a much shorter logistical leash than if they tethered to bases in China. Of particular concern is China’s fleet of 50 diesel electric submarines which could easily operate out of friendly ports in the Indian Ocean.
India clearly recognizing the problem is now embarking on the best solution $10 Billion can buy. India is also expanding its surface battle fleet with purchases of the former Soviet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (renamed Vikramaditya) and the Russian designed Talwar Class stealth frigates for air defense and anti-submarine warfare. India has also begun domestic construction of two 65,000 ton aircraft carriers. There have however been delays and disputes with the Russians over quality and workmanship on the frigates and the rebuilt Gorshkov.
Source – Examiner