On 3rdDecember, during the annual press conference, the Navy chief highlighted the major Requirements and procurements of the Indian Navy such as the Follow-on order of Boeing P-8i Neptune Aircraft, Third Aircraft Carrier, Six Submarines, and other assets [1].But CDS and Navy Chief have different opinions on Third Aircraft Carrier, with former stressing focus on Submarines because of the depleting strength and later being adamant on the need of carrier, well this will be another discussion altogether[2].

Submarines are always the element of surprise in naval warfare and are considered game-changers. Every Navy on the planet takes pride in at least operating a submarine. India had a bitter experience of losing INS Khukri to a submarine during the 1971 War.

Presently Indian Navy operates 2 Nuclear powered (1 leased from Russia) and 14 Conventional powered submarines[3], this would be a very insignificant number compared to the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) which operates around a total of 74 Subs[4]. We know most of the subs in PLAN’s inventory are old and were early soviet models[5]. But China is rapidly making progress in developing New generation submarines. China is also exporting eight Submarines to Pakistan[6]. China-Pakistan Nexus and the increased belligerence of China in the Indian ocean compels India to increase its Underwater muscle as well.So, following the successful order of Scorpenes from France, theIndian Navy is acquiring Six More advanced Submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP)under the Project P75i (AIP would be possibly be developed by DRDO [7]).

‘Amur 1650’ by Rubin Design Bureau (Russia), ‘Type 214’ by Thyssenkrupp (Germany), ‘Scorpene’ by DCNS (France), ‘S80’ by Navantia (Spain) and ‘KSS-III’ by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) (South Korea) are competing in the race. ‘A26’ by Kockums (Sweden) and ‘Soryu-class’ by Mitsubishi (Japan) have opted out. These competing manufacturers have to tie-up with an Indian Company and Govt. of India has short-listed Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) and L&T[8] [9].

Amur 1650 (Russia)

Amur class submarine by Rubin Design Bureau is an export variant of the Lada class submarines. These are the successor of Kilo Class submarines with improved acoustic stealth, new weapon systems, and the option of Air-Independent-Propulsion (AIP). It uses a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell for low noise power generation. These can be used in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-Surface warfare (AsuW), reconnaissance, and patrol missions [10].

KSS-III (South Korea)

KSS-III are the indigenous submarines built by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). These are also called Dosan Ahn Chang-ho class Submarine. They have AIP and Vertical launch System (VLS) for land-attack cruise missiles[11].

S-80 (Spain)

S-80 plus class submarines are being built by Navantia for Spanish Navy. They are also equipped with AIP[12]. Actually, Scorpene Class Submarines were developed by Navantia and DCNS, however, due to some dispute between them, Navantia gave up the export right of Scorpene leaving DCNS as the sole owner of the scorpene class[13].

Kockums A26 (Sweden)

Kockums now owned by Saab are the pioneers and were the first to implement Air-Independent-Propulsion[14]. The technology was so game-changing that the United States leased the Gotland class Subs (which featured the first-ever AIP Stirling engines) for extensive study and war exercise. During wargames, it is said that the Gotland class submarine managed to get too close to US carrier and submarines achieving kill[15] [16]. A26 or Blekinge-class submarines are the successors of the Gotland class.

Soryu Class (Japan)

Soryu class submarines are built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki shipbuilding corporation. Presently these are the largest displaceable Submarine in the Japanese Navy [17]. Originally these Subs used the kockums AIP technology, however, later subs were equipped with lithium-ion batteries which are said to haveincreased underwater endurance [18]. Lithium-ion batteries have significant advantages over conventional lead-acid storage batteries, such as less space consumption, decreased weight, and faster recharge.

Scorpene 2000 (France)

Scorpeneclass submarines are built by French state-owned DCNS (now Naval Group) and Navantia. India has ordered Six of these submarines under the p75 program. Out of six, 2 are in active service, 3 are in sea trials, and 1 under construction. These Subs are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited with assistance from DCNS and Thales [19].

Type 214 (Germany)

Type 214 class is built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW) which is owned by Thyssenkrupp[20]. Type 212is considered one of the most advanced submarines in the world, it featured the first-ever AIP fuel cells. It has a non-magnetic steel hull which makes it difficult to detect by magnetic anomaly detectors (MAD)[21]. But 214 Subs are export variant of 212 and are missing some of the confidential technologies such as non-magnetic hull[20].

Now let’s do an analysis and pick up the best option for the Indian Navy. The focus would be mainly on these parameters

•Displacement                  • Endurance

• Speed                               • Sensors

• Range                              • Weapons


Let’s filter out among the probable competing candidates and see which would be the best alternative for the Indian Navy.

A26 by Saab is still in construction for the Swedish Navy and many features such as Sensors, Sonars and weapons systems are unknown. In fact, the Swedish Navy has only ordered 2 vessels[25], so I think they are still experimenting with thedesign but are offering it to the Indian Navy. Experimenting is not wrong at all, but the developmental time and given the need for Indian Navy A26 would be not suitable. Even Saab Kockums itself has opted out of this race[8] [9]. The Spanish Navy originally intended to buy Scorpene Submarines, but due to some dispute with French DCNS, Spain opted for their indigenousS-80 class subs, which are still in construction [24]. Although 2 KSS-III Subs by DSME have been launched and are undergoing trials, these are the first indigenously developed vessels for the Republic of Korea Navy, which till now was relying on foreign technology [30], so let’s not take that risk.  Amur 1650 is the Lada class export variant, Lada class is the successor to the Soviet Kilo/Improved-kilo Class submarines, which we know have been exported to many countries including India and China.India operates around 8 kilo class submarines in the name of Sindhughosh class[3]. Lada class induction into the Russian navy has been patchy, only one is in active service while other vessels of the class are being heavily redesigned and are in construction[31]. No vessel of Amur class has been built yet, Russia had offered these vessels to India even earlier, But India then chose Scorpeneclass Subs instead[32]. Now it brings us to the final 3 candidates Soryuclass, Scorpeneclass and type 214class. Among these 3 offerings, all three of them would be suitable to the Indian Navy but there are case-to-case variations

Soryuclass of Japan are impressive with Lithium-ion batteries they are one of the most advanced Submarines in the world. They are the largest displaceable Subs in Japan’s inventory. They are equipped with 533 mm torpedoes and Harpoon Missiles. In fact, India had invited Japanese manufacturers to participate in Project P75i [32]. But its Manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has opted out of the project.

Scorpeneclass of France has been exported to several countries such as Chile, Malaysia, India and Brazil [19]. India currently procuring 6 subs, out of which, 2 are in active service, 3 are in sea trails and 1 under construction at Mazagon Dock Limited, so think that there are already established production and manufacturing facilities which would make it easy for further orders. But the concern here is the present Scorpene-Kalvari class submarine of the Indian Navy is without AIP. The AIP was supposed to be developed by DRDO. But DRDO was not able to develop the technology in time. There are plans to integrate AIP by DRDO during the first refit of the vessels somewhere around 2023-2024 [28]. Subs of these class are equipped with 533 mmSUT torpedoes and Exocet Missiles.

German Type 214are currently used by Turkey, Portugal, South Korea and Greece. Even Pakistan came close acquire these Subs but the deal fell through and Pakistan went with Chinese Offer. Among all the competitors these subs have 8 launchers and can be equipped with 533 mm torpedoes and Harpoon missiles[20] [29]. India operates 4 type 209 class Submarines of German origin in the name of Shishumar classwhich are the predecessor to type 214[3].


Whichever India selects among these 3 Subs, the Important precondition or stipulation India must impose on itself that it should be directly manufactured with AIP, (AIP either by DRDO or by Foreign vendors). There should be no reason to delay it, as AIP has a contemporary advantage till any future technology takes over. Another point is that over the time India should manufacture indigenous torpedoes and missiles for Subs. Consider the Harpoon Missiles in both type 214 and Soryu class Subs are of United States origin, so in case of any future sanctions from the USA (e.g., CAATSA) these will become an operational issue for Indian Navy. Sanctions don’t limit only to USA origin weapon system, even if its from European or any other countries and any of its components or services are from the USA, then that also will be affected. Therefore,over the time India should manufacture indigenous torpedoes and missiles. Scorpeneclass Subs have an added advantage over the other two because of the established production/assembly facilities which can bring down the price significantly. So, the preference should be 1) Scorpene, 2) Type 214 and 3) Soryu Class.


Article by DINESH BEHARA,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or