-By Gaurav Jha

The debate around Submarine or an aircraft carrier is one of the hot topics in defense circles of India. Usually, navies around the globe adopt one of the following strategies.

  1. Sea Denial
  2. Sea Control

Indian Navy however has created its own doctrine wherein it is trying to balance between the “sea denial” and “sea control ability”. This is more because the budgetary constraints will not allow the Indian navy to get into “bean counting” with arc rival in the region “china” and sticking just to Sea denial isn’t a good approach as the Indian navy presents itself as a net security provider in the region.

 The approach of the Indian navy looks very balanced and after the induction of the INS Vikrant. The Indian navy will have two carriers to operate in the region along with the development of infrastructure at Andaman and Nicobar Island.  We have already analyzed the requirement of the third carrier in an article, in this article we will look at the fleet of the Indian navy’s submarines.

The Indian Navy currently operates 16 submarines. In which 14 are conventional submarines or diesel-electric submarines and 2 nuclear-powered submarines which include 1 SSN, the Akula class submarine “INS Chakra”. The second submarine is an indigenously built SSBN INS Arihant while the third submarine “INS Arighat” is under sea trials.

Conventional submarines: –

1.Shishumar class submarines

                  The shishumar class submarine is a diesel-electric attack submarine of German origin. Initially, it was planned to acquire 6 submarines of this class for the Indian Navy. But due to the economic crisis in 1980s, only 4 were acquired out of which the 2 submarines were built by HDW in Germany and the remaining two were constructed by Mazagaon Dock limited in India. Currently, all 4 submarines are operational in the Indian Navy.

  1. INS Shishumar (S44).

  2. INS Shankush (S45).

  3. INS Shalki (S46).

  4. INS Shankul(S47).

       These submarines have a displacement of 1850 tonnes when submerged and the can go up to the top speed of 22 knots (41km/hr) underwater and 11knots (20km/hr) on the surface. The submarines have a range of 8000Nmi (15000km).

Armaments: Though these submarines are more than 30-20 years old, but they carry a decent punch of firepower. These submarines carry the following:

  • 14 × AEG-SUT Mod-1 torpedoes
  • 24 × external strap-on mines
  • UGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles

2.Sindhugosh class submarines

         The Sindhugosh class submarines are also a diesel-electric attack submarine of Soviet origin based on kilo class submarines. Currently Indian Navy operates 8 Sindhugosh class submarines in its inventory.

   1. INS Sindhugosh (S55).

   2. INS Sindhudhavaj (S56).

   3. INS Sindhuraj (S57).

   4. INS Sindhuratna (S59).

   5. INS Sindhukesari (S60).

   6. INS Sindhukirti (S61).

   7. INS Sindhuvijay (S62).

   8. INS Sindhurashtra (S65).

             The submarines of this class have a displacement of 3076 tonnes when submerged and have a range of 6000Nmi (9700km). The submarines can go up to the speed of 18 knots. These are equipped with Klub anti-ship cruise missiles with a range of 220km. The Indian Navy was operating 10 submarines of this class in which the INS Sindhurakshak (S63) was decommissioned due to an accident in the vessel in the year 2013 near Mumbai and INS Sindhuvir (S58) was gifted to Myanmar Navy in March 2020 after the upgrade.


  • Club-S missile
  • Type 53-65 torpedo
  • TEST 71/76 anti-submarine, active-passive homing torpedo
  • 24 × DM-1 mines in lieu of torpedoes

Note: Both Sishumar Class and Sindhughosh class will be upgraded in the coming days. The Russian Federation has offered a 3+3 deal on the upgrade of Sindhughosh class of submarine. As per the proposal, three submarines of the Indian navy will be upgraded along with the transfer of three Russian Kilo-class submarines, upgraded to the same standards for 1.8 Billion USD.

3. Kalvari class submarines

            The kalvari class submarines are diesel-electric attack submarines based on the Scorpene-class submarines of French origin and are being built for the Indian Navy at the Mazagoan Dock Limited Mumbai under the “make in India” initiative. A total of 6 submarines are to be built under this project.

    1. INS Kalvari (S21)  (In service).

    2. INS Khanderi (S22)  (In service).

    3. INS Karanj (S23)  (Under sea trials).

    4. INS Vela (S24)  (Under sea trials).

    5. INS Vagir  (under construction).

    6. INS Vagsheer (Under construction)

The submarines of this class have a displacement of 1800 tonnes and can go up to the speed of 20 knots (37km/hr) and has a range of 6500Nmi (12000km). This submarine can dive up to a depth of 350 meters.

Armament: The submarine can fire a wide spectrum of weapons ranging from torpedo to encapsulated cruise missiles through the torpedo tube. The weapons of this submarine are the following:

  • 6 x 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes for 18 SUT torpedoes OR
  • SM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles
  • 30 mines in place of torpedoes

All the conventional submarines of the Indian Navy can fire missiles, but none can fire the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles as they do not have a vertical launch system. The diameter of the torpedo tubes is 23mm, while the diameter of the Brahmos missile is 27mm.

Probably that is the reason why the Indian navy is looking for a submarine that can accommodate Brahmos under the latest project. This project is called Project P75 I and as per this, the Indian navy will acquire 6 conventional submarines for the Indian navy. The submarines will be made in India either by Mazgao dock limited or L&T under the strategic partnership model. Under this model an OEM will transfer the technology to an Indian partner (L&T or MDL) and they will make these submarines.

The five Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are

  1. South Korean shipbuilding and marine engineering company Daewoo,
  2. Spain’s Navantia,
  3. Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS),
  4. Russian Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau (RDB)
  5. French Naval Group.

And the submarines on offer are as follows

  1. South Korean shipbuilding and marine engineering company Daewoo

Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarine: The submarine is the result of a three-phase program to build 27 attack submarines for the Republic of Korea between 1994 to 2029.

  1. Features:
    1. Displacement: 3750 tonnes
    1. Endurance: 50 Days
    1. AIP: Fuel Cell : Additional days
    1. Armaments
      1. 6 – 21 Inches torpedo tube
      1. 6 – VLS (to be increased to 10 in batch 2)
    1. Possitive:
      1. It has a VLS
      1. Lithium Ion batteries
    1. Drawback
      1. The boat is not yet inducted in ROK Navy.
  2. Spain’s Navantia,

S80 Class submarine: The S80 class of submarine are built for Spanish Navy by Navantia.

  1. Features:
    1. Displacement: 3,426 Tonnes
    1. Endurance: 30 days + 28 days of AIP autonomy 
    1. AIP: Bio Ethanol engine
    1. Armaments
      1. 6 × 533 mm torpedo tubes with DM2A4 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles
    1. Drawbacks 
      1. No VLS
      1. Not inducted in Spanish navy yet
  2. Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS),

Type 214: The submarine is operational with Turkish Naval forces, Portuguese Navy, Republic of Korea Navy and Hellenic Navy.

  1. Features:
    1. Displacement: 1860 Tonnes
    1. Endurance: 84 days
    1. AIP: Fuel Cell
    1. Armament:
      1. (8) 533 mm torpedo tubes,
      1. (4) subharpoon-capable
    1. Drawback:
      1. Widely used, thus acoustic signature may be vulnerable.
      1. No VLS
    1. Positive:
      1. Proven Platform
      1. Small but powerful
  2. Russian Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau (RDB)

Amur class: These submarines are designed with the objective of minimum displacement with maximum punch. The submarines are currently available in two variants, the Amur-1650 is larger and intended for longer missions. The Amur-950 is armed with a VLS missile system capable of salvo-fire at multiple predesignated targets

  1. Features
    1. Displacement: 950 tonnes
    1. Endurance: 45 Days
    1. AIP: Fuel Cell
    1. Armaments
      1. 4 533-mm tubes, 16 torpedoes, missiles, mines total
      1. 10 vertical silos for BrahMos missiles
    1. Drawback:
      1. No working models
      1. Russian systems do not follow strict timeline
    1. Positive:
      1. VLS
      1. Very low noise as very low displacement
      1. Can fire Brahmos
  2. French Naval Group

The French Naval Group has offered two submarines. One SMX while the other one being Scorpeen Extended. The SMX submarine concept is based on the basic Barracuda-class nuclear submarine while Scorpeen extended is “Scorpeen with a VLS plug”.

  1. Features: SMX
    1. Displacement: 3000-3500 tonnes
    1. Endurance: Not Known
    1. AIP: Not Known
    1. Armaments
      1. Torpedoes
      1. Brahmos
    1. Drawbacks
      1. Still a concept
    1. Positive
      1. Will inherit qualities from Barracuda class, nuclear submarine

       # Nuclear powered submarines

  1. Arihant class submarines

The Arihant class submarines is an indigenously built nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. The Indian Navy currently operates 1 submarine of this class i.e INS Arihant. This is the lead vessel of the Arihant class. The second vessel of this class “INS Arighat”  is undergoing sea trials, however, as per some reports the boat has already completed its sea trials and it is expected to be commissioned by end of the year.

Under this class, 2 larger vessels are also under construction. These submarines are not yet named and thus they are popularly called as S4 and S4*.

     1. INS Arihant (active in service).

     2. INS Arighat (completed sea trials) *

     3. S4 (Under construction).

     4. S4* (Under construction).

The Arihant class of submarines has a displacement of 6000 tonnes (Arihant and Arighat). While the S4 and S4* will have more displacement than the first two vessels of the class. The submarines can go up to the speed of 24 knots(44km/hr) when submerged. These submarines can dive deep; however, the reported depth is 300m (test depth). The Arihant and Arighat can carry 12×k15 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (750km range). Or 4×K4 SLBM (3500km).

2. Chakra class submarines

The chakra class submarine is a nuclear-powered attack submarine of (Akula 2) class. This submarine of Russian origin and leased by India for the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy currently operates 1 submarine of this class INS Chakra which was taken on lease from Russia for 2billion USD in 2012. Talks around the second submarine lease are underway and likely by 2024 this second submarine will be transferred to India.

The INS Chakra has a displacement of 12770 tonnes. It can go up to the speed of 30 knots. And it is one of the quietest nuclear submarines in the world.

Future inductions

If all the plans of Indian navy work the way they are intended to be then in years to come Indian navy will have 24 conventional submarines

  1. Shishumar class – 4
    1. Sindhughosh Class – 8
      1. Scorpeen Submarines – 6
      1. P75 I – 6

Nuclear Powered

  1. Arihant Class – 2
  2. S4 Class – 2
  3. INS Chakra Class – 2 (If lease extended and second boat comes soon)
  4. Indian SSN – 6
  5. S5 Class – 3

Which will take total to 15 submarines.

This number appears realistic to perform the sea denial missions. Thus it can be said that approach of Indian navy is balanced.

By Alpha Defense

Alpha Defense initially a solo venture but now a defense group by people from various demographics of India covering defense news and updates. We believe in unbiased analysis of every subject in hand. Our mission is to provide simplfiied defense information to the public.