New Desi hunter-killer submarines for the Indian Navy?

-Aman Routray & Subodh Sharma

The recent development indicates the Indian navy is inching towards a state-of-the-art indigenous hunter-killer submarine. In recent history, the Indian Navy and associated agencies had started a quest to acquire the following systems.

  1. Lithium-Ion Batteries
  2. Air Independent Propulsion system
  3. Indigenous Development of 5 MW Propulsion Motor

It was earlier believed that these systems are acquired for the requirement of nuclear-powered attack submarines. However, with the addition of the Air Independent Propulsion system, it becomes clear that the submarine that will come out of this program will be a conventional hunter-killer submarine.

As per Indian Navy’s submarine modernization plan, the force should have 24 modern submarines. Earlier it was believed that those would be:

8 Kilo class submarines – Sindhughosh class submarines

Sindhughosh-class are Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines in active service with the Indian Navy. They have a displacement of 3,000 tonnes, a maximum diving depth of 300 meters, top speed of 18 knots, and can operate solo for 45 days with a crew of 53. They are equipped with the 3M-54 Klub (SS-N-27) antiship cruise missiles with a range of 220 km.

4 Type 209 submarines – Shishumar class

The Shishumar-class vessels are diesel-electric attack submarines, currently in active service with the Indian Navy. These are an Indian variant of the Type 209 submarines developed by the German yard Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW). They have a displacement of 1660 tons when surfaced, a speed of 22 knots (41 km/h), and a complement of 40 including eight officers.

6 Scorpene Submarine – Kalvari class

The Kalvari class is a class of diesel-electric attack submarines based on the Scorpène-class submarine being built for the Indian Navy. These submarines with a displacement of 1,775 tonnes, can carry a crew of 8 officers and 35 sailors. Each ship is powered by four MTU 12V 396 SE84 diesel engines, has 360 battery cells (750 kg each), for power, and has a silent Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor. The hull, fin, and hydroplanes are designed for minimum underwater resistance, and all equipment inside the pressure hull is mounted on shock-absorbing cradles for enhanced stealth.

This takes the total to 18 submarines and with upcoming Project 75I, Indian Navy would have received another 6 submarines rising it to 24. Some reports suggested that the Indian Navy will eventually make 12 Indigenous submarines to replace the fleet of Kilo class and Type 209, this project was believed to be P76. However, later some reports suggested that this number of 24 should also include the nuclear-powered attack submarines. Thus, the case for Project 75I may run in jeopardy and Navy may directly jump to project 76.

Read here about INS Karanj, latest Kalvari class inducted. And you can read about the P75I saga here.

India currently has all the building blocks to make its own diesel electric submarine. As we have seen in the past that navy has already started the quest to acquire the propulsion system, power management system and lithium ion battery. The recent breakthrough in Air Independent propulsion system has paved a way to pursue an altogether indigenous design. The Indian navy will have following two options

Super Kalvari for Project 76

The Kalvari class of class of diesel-electric attack submarines are based on the Scorpène-class submarine of France. These submarines are designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS and are being manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai. The MDL today has all the facility to manufacture a diesel electric submarine. The Scorpene design tweaked to carry DRDO Air independent system and vertical launch systems can easily meet all the requirement of the Indian Navy.

SSK based on SSN

The French shortfin Barracuda that was on offer for the requirement of Australian Navy is a direct modification of Barracuda class (or Suffren class) of nuclear attack submarine. India can go French way make their own SSK based on SSN. The Indian Navy is already making 6 nuclear powered attack submarines. These submarines will have a displacement of 5000-6000 tonnes and conventional variant of the same with 2500-3000 tonne displacement can be an option for Indian Navy.

BrahMos firing capability is paramount

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is a futuristic system, it can be continuously upgraded for the futuristic requirement. Currently, none of the Indian submarines can launch this deadly anti-ship missile. The part of the problem is the dimension of BrahMos and the lack of a vertical launch system in these submarines. The diameter of BrahMos is 27 inches and thus this missile cannot be launched from a torpedo tube which is normally 21-inch (533 mm) in diameter.


To launch BrahMos the submarine should have a vertical launch system. The Arihant class of submarines features a vertical launch system but these submarines are SSBN which are designed to be more stable in comparison. The vertical launch system of Arihant can be modified to carry Brahmos, instead of K15 -Sagarika. A submarine capable of firing 600 KM range supersonic cruise missiles will be a game-changer in true sense and it appears that the Indian Navy is almost home.

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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.

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