Written by Vishnu Som | Updated: May 04, 2016 19:11 IST
On Sunday, Kalvari, the first of the submarines built in India as part of a 3 billion dollar deal, sailed out of Mazgaon docks in Mumbai. (Photo Courtesy: Indian Navy)
- Submarine begins trials, but has no torpedoes, cannot attack
- Torpedoes were to be supplied by Italian-owned firm
- But Finmeccanica blacklisted over bribes for a helicopter deal in India
The Indian Navy’s new Made-In-India submarine, which went to sea trials on Sunday, is effectively a gun without bullets.
That’s because the primary weapon of the Scorpene class submarine, the Black Shark torpedo, is designed and manufactured by a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, the Italian defence manufacturer that has been blacklisted after it paid bribes to sell a dozen helicopters to India.
On Sunday, Kalvari, the first of six diesel-electric submarines built at Mumbai in a 3 billion dollar deal with a French firm, sailed out of the Mazgaon docks to have systems tested ahead of being commissioned in a few months into the Navy.
Without her torpedoes, the Kalvari will have no weapons to target enemy submarines. The only other weapons onboard are French-designed Exocet missiles which are designed to strike enemy ships, not submarines.
All six Scorpene class submarines are meant to be delivered to the Navy by 2020, which is in desperate need of modernization especially given China’s aggressively upgraded navy. India currently has only 15 elderly Russian and German designed submarines.
The deal for 100 Black Shark Torpedos, worth 1,500 crores, was on the verge of being signed in 2013 with Finmecannica’s subsidiary but was suspended just months before the government cancelled the helicopter deal with AgustaWestland, also owned by the Italian giant. The Finmecannica corporate family was then banned from any business with the Indian government.
In August 2014, the Defence Ministry said in a detailed note that if Finmceccania is the lowest bidder for a defence deal, “all such procurement/acquisition cases shall be put on hold, until further orders”. The problem is that no new decision has been taken, and senior navy sources tell NDTV that identifying, shortlisting and testing new torpedoes as part of a new tender is likely to take at least another five years.
The Black Shark torpedo was selected from among different contenders based on its performance in technical trials, its competitive price and the opinion of officers who said it was best suited for the submarines that were to be built in Mumbai.
The Scorpene class submarine was developed by DCN of France and Izar (formerly Bazan) of Spain. It is based on the proven Amethyste class of the French Navy.
France and India also signed an agreement for the latter to build six Scorpene class boats at the state-owned Mazagon Docks in Bombay, with technical aid from the French DCN and Thales companies. The boats are to be completed on 2016-22 with SM.39 Exocet underwater-launched anti-ship missiles. Construction started in 2009.
The boat has a high level of automation. A crew of 32 men is just half the number, comparing with earlier generation submarines.
Submarine is available with basic or shorter hull, designed for improved maneuverability and lower signature. Hull of the Scorpene was designed for quiet running.
The Scorpene class submarines feature diesel propulsion. They are powered by four diesel generators, developing more than 2 500 kW. Some vessels were ordered with an Air-Independent Propulsion system (AIP). Submarine has a range of 6 500 nautical mines (12 000 km) at 8 knots surfaced or 550 nm (1 020 km) at 5 knots submerged. Usually food supplies carried are sufficient for 50 days. Submarines with AIP system are capable of remaining submerged for three times longer than Scorpenes with conventional propulsion. They are sometimes referred as diesel-electric attack submarines.
Black Shark torpedo
Black Shark is an advanced, long-range, multi-purpose, heavy weight torpedo designed and developed by Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei (WASS) in cooperation with the Italian Navy. The wire-guided heavy weight torpedo, designed for a life of more than 20 years, can be deployed to defend any surface or underwater targets and can be launched from submarines, surface vessels or land stations.
The Black Shark torpedo is equipped with multiple wake sensors for the detection and classification of targets. The sensor systems incorporate a fully digital beam-forming signal and data processing technique.
A state-of-the-art Advanced Sonar Transmitting and Receiving Architecture (ASTRA) active and passive acoustic head is fitted to provide multi-target homing guidance capabilities. The torpedo is firtjer fitted with a fibre optic wire guidance communication link that provides advanced communication capabilities. Black Shark can also be equipped with an audio channel.
The Black Shark heavy weight torpedo is powered by an electrical propulsion system, which is based on a silver oxide and aluminium (Al-AgO) battery. Developed by Saft, the AgO-Al batteries are provided with high energy density and high electrolyte conductivity offering maximum safety and storage life of up to 12 years. The system delivers twice the power and energy of a standard zinc / silver oxide (Ag-Zn) battery.
The propulsion system also consists of very high energy contra-rotating direct-drive brushless motor and skewed propellers that provide a very low radiated noise. The stepless speed electronic control provides very high speed to the torpedo.