France and Australia were about to sign a US$ 65 billion (AU$ 90 billion) deal to build 12 conventional AIP powered version of Barracuda SSN called ‘Shortfin’ Barracuda. The deal that was in the making for last 6-7 years, was so important for France and believed it had the RAN/Royal Australian Navy deal in the pocket that it reportedly let many smaller but significantly numerous contracts. Aussie PM who was reportedly directly in touch with French president on the deal and supported the deal.

But suddenly either in late 2019 or early 2020 he started to have second thoughts on the deal, and asked high powered team comprising of RAN experts and men from several ministries, and financial; experts to look for alternatives. They after much deliberations concluded there was no point in going for a conventional AIP powered submarine that operate only few hundred miles off coast line, when the need was to patrol and guard vast stretches of deep ocean perhaps thousands of miles away from coastline.

As such going for a nuclear-powered submarine was found a prudent choice. As such negotiations were started with US first that decided to help to provide support systems but for reasons unknown or for viability reasons didn’t offer any of its SSN/SSGN design. So, Australia got in touch with UK, that agreed to provide its Astute Class SSN design. Thus, AUKUS tripartite deal was for formed to develop and build 8 SSGN based on Astute class SSN design.The new submarines main task will be to patrol the vast stretch of the waters in the southern Pacific and southern Indian ocean, as well as patrol Chinese SSN/SSBN that have become a headache for many countries be it UK, USA, Australia, or even India. RAN is building 8 SSGN despite having no adversary in the neighbourhood, with only distant China poking its nose into areas that RAN considers its own.

How Many SSN Indian Navy Needs

Indian Navy is in the process of getting its 6thScorpene class SSK submarine, that are besides the 8 Sindhughosh class and 4 Shishumar class submarine. Apart from these at SBC near Vizag S2/INS Arihant, S3/INS Arighat6000 ton SSBN were built with S4/INS Aridhamanabout to roll out in few months. While plans are in place to further build the 13000 ton S5/6/7 that will be more than double of Arihant class at SBC that will be true SSBN.Once the S5/6/7 rollout by 2036; then S2/3/4 will morph into SSGN. While the 13000 ton S5/6/7 will carry the K5 (5000 km range)/ K6 (6000 km range) missiles then S2/3/4 will carry the Nirbhay SLCM with a range of around 1500 kms and ER SL:CM version of Brahmos.

However, the main concern now for IN is building a fleet of SSN not only to guard the SSBNs and CBGs but also shadow SSBN / SSN of our adversaries that intrude into northern Indian Ocean, the area that IN considers its own sphere of patrol and influence. Ideally SSBNs the world over travel with 2 SSNs in guard but IN cant afford that luxuy, so IN will have to make do with 1 SSN and if possible 1 or 2 UUVs OR Unmanned Underwater Vehicles guard the slow moving SSBNs. While typically SSGNs don’t travel with guard SSNs. So now the question arises ‘how many SSNs IN needs?’ 6 are being built under Project 78A. My calculation says the IN needs 9 SSNsatleast,

  • 3 SSN each to guard the 3 SSBNs
  • 3 SSN each to guard the 3 CBGs
  • 3 SSN to patrol the high seas and shadow other SSBN/SSN of hostile navies and also guard SSBN/CBG in emergency.

Many may say we don’t need so many SSNs and say that 1 SSN can not only guard a CBG but also a SSBN. Then I must tell you that SSN is not a car, and after every trip the SSN the fastest of all 3 types of nuclear submarines will have to be thoroughly checked.

India & France Post AUKUS Deal

After Australia ditched France with AUKUS deal now the question arises what will France do to get over the shock. One possibility is France will deepen its defenseties with India, France can:-

  • Provide HEU / Highly Enriched Uranium for IN fleet of 6 or 9 SSN
  • Lower the price per unit of follow-on 6 Scorpene submarine, it may be known that MDL is asking for 3 more Scorpene submarine deal from MoD to amortise its cost.
  • Help develop a better variant of UTTAM AESA radar & KAVERI aircraft engine.
  • Help refine the INS Vikrant/IAC 1 design to develop a LHD design on the lines of French Mistral LHD.

Lets hope better sense prevails in Delhi and Paris that allows them to work together more.

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Article by JOYDEEP GHOSH ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or