Due to anticipated delays in the Project-75 I program, which aims to acquire conventional submarines from an international Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), the Indian Navy is exploring the possibility of leasing conventional submarines for a period of ten years. This consideration arises primarily due to the impending retirements of older German Shishumar-class submarines.
Currently, the Indian Navy operates four 1,450-ton Shishumar-class SSKs as part of its 10th submarine squadron based in Mumbai. Two of these submarines, which were assembled at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, Germany, are slated for retirement. Meanwhile, the third and fourth vessels of the class, which were license-built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and commissioned in the early 1990s, are planned to undergo upgrades to extend their serviceability until 2030.
In the past, Russia had offered India three refurbished Kilo-Class submarines; however, due to the ongoing war and economic challenges, it is highly unlikely that India will take up this offer. India currently operates a fleet of ten Kilo submarines, but it has lost one submarine, transferred one to Myanmar, and retired another. Only three submarines have undergone a midlife upgrade to extend their operational lifespan by an additional 10 years.
Despite Russia’s offer, the prevailing circumstances, including the ongoing war and economic situation, have made it impractical for India to proceed with acquiring the refurbished Kilo-Class submarines. With the loss of one submarine, the transfer to Myanmar, and the retirement of another, India’s submarine fleet faces challenges in terms of numbers.
To address the submarine fleet requirements during the interim period, the Indian Navy is exploring options for leasing conventional submarines. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has proposed the 2,000-ton diesel-electric Type 214 submarines, equipped with an air-independent propulsion system that utilizes Siemens’ polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells. TKMS has already held discussions with the Indian Navy and the government, exploring the possibility of a direct submarine contract that bypasses Project-75 I.
This leasing option provides a temporary solution to bridge the gap caused by the delays in the indigenous Project-75 I program. The Type 214 submarines offer advanced capabilities and technologies, including the air-independent propulsion system, which enhances endurance and operational flexibility.