Project 75I: From ‘Param Vir’ awardee Abdul Hamid to Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman, Indian soldiers have demonstrated that with a strong morale, any adversary can be defeated. Both the personalities won the field with below-par equipment. India is undoubtedly filled with valiant soldiers who display unrivalled chivalry. But it cannot be ignored that Indian forces needed a boost in military capabilities. From time to time, the government worked to elevate the Indian forces’ defence capabilities. But the current approach is more optimistic and sustained.
Keeping an eye on the competitive defence hardware demand, the government of India took a slew of measures. India is also focusing on the domestic production of weapons and other equipment through “Make in India” and “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” initiatives. And Russia, being the biggest defence partner, has joined hands in the cause in many instances.
With a dedicated focus, the Indian Navy too is witnessing a reformation. Now, the Indian Navy is profoundly working on its decade-long Project 75I with Russia, which is an optimistic sign for Indian maritime security.
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Project 75I: India to receive a new submarine
India recently hosted the Aero India show to showcase its military might and increase ties with other countries in the defence sector. The most interesting thing witnessed in the show was the attempts of the USA and Russia to increase the defence trade with India, seeking a counter to each other. The show had 701 Indian and 110 foreign exhibitors.
Among those, the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Vladimir Drozhzhov, has offered to jointly develop a diesel submarine. The proposal comes after Russia declined to participate in India’s ambitious diesel submarine projects, Project 75 and Project 75I.
The upcoming submarine will be modeled after the Russian Amur-1650 submarine. Russia has made it clear in its offer that it intends to localise 80 percent of the development of these submarines. The offer is significant as India is looking to sign an agreement for diesel-based submarines under Project 75I this year. Earlier, India had issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) in 2021 to six countries, including Russia.
According to the features of the RFP, the six planned diesel-electric attack submarines are expected to include advanced capabilities such as air-independent propulsion (AIP), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), special operations forces (SOF), anti-ship warfare (AShW), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and land-attack capabilities.
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At that time, three countries out of six contenders—France, Russia, and Spain—withdrew from the deal. This was mainly because of two reasons, the first being the lack of qualitative capability requested by India, specifically lithium-ion air-independent propulsion. Secondly, they were strictly against the liability clause that puts obligations on the foreign partners despite the complete manufacturing being domestic.
Currently, Project 75I has only one vendor, a South Korean company. It is the only bidder offering a proven fuel cell air-independent propulsion (AIP) system.
After the withdrawal of most of the contenders, it was believed that the project had been shelved. But the Navy Chief expressed the service’s commitment to the programme before Navy Day in December last year. So, the offer from the Russian side comes at the right moment. But, it is not the first time that India has received an offer for an Amur-1650 submarine.
Back in 2019, Vladimir Drozhzhov proposed a joint project with India to build the first pilot model of a new-generation diesel-electric submarine based on the Amur-1650 project.
According to Rosoboronexport, the Amur 1650 submarine is designed to destroy hostile navy surface combatants, transports, and submarines and lead reconnaissance parties. It can complete vital global missions regardless of the weather, which is significant for India as it looks to augment its naval fleet to combat the PLA Navy’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
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The submarine boasts a powerful sonar system with low noise, high levels of automation, and the ability to fire torpedoes and the Club-S missile system. The joint project with India also aimed to equip the submarine with BrahMos cruise missiles, as per a report published in TASS in 2019.
Features of Amur-1650
Equipped with adaptable deep-water torpedoes, anti-ship cruise missiles, and mines, the Amur 1650 submarine is capable of attacking a wide range of enemy targets on land and at sea. The submarine’s automated command information system generates and provides the necessary data for launching missiles and torpedoes.
To enhance its underwater travel time, the Amur 1650 submarine can be fitted with a fuel cell air-independent propulsion system, which can extend its operational time by up to 20 days. The inclusion of an AIP is a core requirement for the diesel-attack submarine to be constructed under Project 75I, which led to most contenders withdrawing from the tender.
In addition to its weaponry, the Amur 1650 submarine features an attack periscope that includes optical and video linkages with night vision capabilities. The periscope module also has an optronic, non-penetrating mast that comes equipped with antennas for catching signals from satellite navigation systems and radars.
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The navigation system of the submarine includes GLONASS and GPS receivers, enabling accurate determination of the submarine’s location and motion parameters required for safe navigation and effective weapon usage. Furthermore, an automated radio communication system with a trailing antenna is incorporated into the submarine’s design. The antenna can receive secure command signals and data communications at depths of up to 100 meters.
Why India needs submarines
Due to its extensive coastline, India has to conduct operations far from its shores, making the capability of its Navy crucial. Therefore, India is prioritizing the expansion of its aircraft carrier fleet to better secure its maritime borders.
When it comes to the Indian Ocean, India might need to watch the spot because the biggest threat isn’t the native countries, but rather China on the prowl! It has extensively paid attention to the island nations of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), just to counter India’s influence. Therefore, Submarines can also be deployed outside the IOR as needed to deal with any uncertainty. For instance, recently, the Indian Navy deployed INS Sindhukesari in Indonesian waters.
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From sea command to sea denial
In 2020, the then Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat announced that India would prioritise the production of submarines instead of the third aircraft carrier. It could be because aircraft carriers are large and expensive to deploy in the deep ocean.
In contrast to aircraft carriers, submarines have the capability to operate at great depths and remain submerged for extended periods of time. Their ability to maneuver through narrow waterways allows for enhanced stealth and agility. While aircraft carriers are visible and serve as a visible deterrent, submarines can go undetected, making them ideal for covert operations and espionage during times of crisis.
The Indian Navy had earlier intended to shift its strategy from sea control policy to sea denial. The Indian Navy’s strategy focuses on sea control, which entails using the sea in a reasonably secure manner. According to Indian naval doctrine, sea control involves the capacity to utilise a specified sea area for a defined time and objective while simultaneously preventing the enemy from accessing it.
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However, the document acknowledges that any control attained through force would be limited in duration and scope and does not guarantee immunity from enemy attacks. To enforce sea control, the Navy employs a combination of expensive assets such as capital-intensive ships, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and amphibious capabilities, necessitating ongoing modernization efforts.
In contrast, a sea denial strategy aims to restrict an adversary’s use of a sea area for a specific duration. It is a component of sea control and may be used as an offensive tactic to diminish the enemy’s ability to wage war by limiting their freedom to maneuver. Submarines, along with surface ships, helicopters, and surface-to-surface missiles, are the most effective means of carrying out sea denial.
Increasing Naval Strength
Speaking of the capabilities of the Indian Navy, there are as many as 15 conventional submarines, along with 2 nuclear-powered submarines. If the deal is finalized, India will get additional conventional submarines, this time with advanced features.
Russia has been an important partner when it comes to the defence sector. In recent days, Russia has offered its fifth-generation SU-75 “Checkmate” aircraft. The offer is viewed by many as a replacement for the SU-57 fighter jet that was rejected by India. If India approves the deal, there will also be a technology transfer that will augment the proficiency of Indian manufacturers like Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited.
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