Scorpene v/s. Kilo :-Future of India’s Silent Warriors

India’s submarine modernisation plans have long been a subject of conjecture and debate in the Indian strategic affairs community. After an August 2013 explosion gutted the INS Sindhurakshak – the Navy’s premier Kilo class submarine – there has been much introspection over the depleting status of its submarine arm. Unfortunately, with the Navy unable to stick to scheduled timelines in the Scorpene programme – its principal submarine project – all talk of revamping the submarine arm has sounded hollow.

Last week, however, brought some cheery news. As Khanderi, India’s second indigenous scopene class stealth submarine, commenced sea-trails outside Mumbai Harbour

The cheery tidings aren’t limited to the conventional submarine programme. Indian maritime watchers are pleased with the impending induction of the first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, the Arihant. Having cleared its diving trials and missile tests, the Arihant could soon be commissioned into the fleet as India’s first nuclear ballistic missile platform (SSBN). At 6,000-tons of displacement, the new submarine is a unique technology demonstrator and showcases the best of Indian naval design capability.

Let’s Compare India’s Present Kilo Class And Future Scopene Class Shealth Submarine

 Kilo Class Stealth Submarine

The Kilo Class is the NATO designation for a naval diesel-electric submarine made in Russia. The original version of the vessels were designated Project 877 Paltus (Halibut) in Russia.

The Kilo Class submarines are mainly intended for anti-shipping and anti-submarine operations in relatively shallow waters. Original Project 877 vessels are equipped with Rubikon MGK-400 sonar system, which includes a mine detection and avoidance sonar MG-519 Arfa.

The first Kilo Class submarine entered service in the Soviet Navy in 1980, and the vessel continues to be in service in Russain Navy. A total of 14 such vessels are believed to be in Russian Navy’s fleet, with 17 in active service and seven in reserve.

Till today, 33 such vessels have been exported to India, Algeria, China, Poland, Iran and Vietnam. Also, Venezuela and Indonesia have showed interest in acquiring Kilo Class submarines.The submarines are propelled by a diesel-electric engine which generates 4,400 kw of power.

The Kilo is said to be the quietest sub ever built by Russian…and it provides a capability to third world and developing nation a cheap and cost-effective approach in having an undersea fighting capabilities…a capability that once were only cherished by the global military superpowers…However…Kilo class submarine…whether the Project 877EKM or the Project 636 does not have the ability to have an extended dive endurance due to lack of AIP systems.

This means that although Kilo is quiet…it still had to rely on its battery…and still have to surface to recharge her batteries compared to subs fitted with AIP or AIP capable subs that will not require resurfacing to recharge its battery..

These submarines can travel upto 700 km at 6 km/h when submerged. It can snorkel upto 11,000 km at 13 km/h. The vessels can stay in the sea for 45 days at a stretch, after which they need to return to docks/nearest port.

These vessels can carry up to eight surface-to-air missiles and can carry 18 torpedoes or 14 underwater mines. These can carry 52 personnel on board.

Scorpene Class Stealth submarine

The Scorpene is the next generation diesel attack submarine with multi role capabilities co produce by DCNS. The SSK Scorpene attack submarine is equipped with six bow-located 21in torpedo tubes providing salvo launch capability.”

In October 2005, India placed an order for six Scorpene submarines. The submarines are being built at the state-owned Mazagon dockyard in Bombay, with technical assistance and equipment from French companies DCN and Thales.

At the same time, India also placed an order for 36 MBDA SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles to arm the submarines.

The Kalvari Class of Scoprene Submarines are stealthier than nuclear subs as they can work without needing to surface or send up a snorkel for oxygen thanks to the use of Air-independent propulsion system found on the Scorpene subs that can help it stay underwater for up to 21 days at a stretch.

Kalvari and other submarines in this class are also equipped with WLT/Weapons Launching tubes and these can carry weapons on board which can effectively be reloaded at sea

However, INS Kalvari, first Submarine of the Kalvari Class, is not equipped with AIP. As of now, it is said, 6th Submarine of the class would have AIP. Initial plan was to have it into last two subs of Class, but The AIP system being developed by the Maharashtra-based Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) has hit some delays. It is contemplated that AIP would be retro fitted in 5th Boat at a later stage.

The system acts as a battery that runs the sub when it is submerged which in turns keeps down the noise the sub creates underwater. The diesel engines usually work while the sub is on the surface.

This Scorpene submarine has superior stealth technology. It can also launch massive attacks through precision guided weapons. An attack can be launched through this submarine with torpedoes as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles on the surface of the water or beneath it as well. This submarine works in all settings including the tropics, wherein various means and communications are in place to ensure interoperability with various components of the naval task force

The Scorpene submarines are a class apart, diesel powered hunter killer submarines developed by DCNS of France. Displacing 1900 tonnes of water when submerged these submarines can sail almost at zero noise underwater thus avoiding any detection by enemy submarines. This enables the submarine to tail enemy high value targets like the ‘aircraft carriers’ or ‘SSBN’s’ and gain acoustical and thermal images which will prove vital in war times. Powered by two diesel engines the submarine can attain a maximum speed of 37 km/h when submerged and can cut through the waters at 22 km/h when surfaced. The diesel engines are complemented by two Jeumont-Schneider EPM Magtronic batteries which collectively churn out 2800 kW of power, allowing the submarine to operate ultra quite when tailing targets.
The submarine incorporates a high level of system redundancy to achieve an average 240 days at sea a year for each submarine. The maximum diving depth is 300m, giving the commander more tactical freedom than previously available on conventional submarines. There is no limit to the duration of dives at a maximum depth, other than the power systems and crew limitations.

The structure of the submarine uses high-yield stress-specific steel which allows for as many dives to maximum depth as necessary.

Scorpene itself have more endurance at sea compared to other conventional subs…with its only limitation are the power generation and crew endurance.

The use of high-tensile steels has reduced the weight of the pressure hull, allowing a larger load of fuel and ammunition. The reduced complement minimises training costs and increase combat efficiency by making more space, while a larger payload enhances the ship’s autonomy.

The low acoustic signature and hydrodynamic shock resistance give the Scorpene class the capability to carry out anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare operations in closed or open sea conditions, as well as the capability of working with special forces in coastal waters.

Numerous defence activities can be carried out through this stealth submarine including mine laying, area surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering and multifarious warfare activities

Scorpene submarines are equipped with Thales DR 3000 electronic warfare system. The submarine is also equipped with Sagem Series 20 Attack Periscope System (APS) and Series 30 Search Mast System (SMS). The primary radar system for the Scorpene’s is the extremely accurate and efficient Sagem Series-10 compact submarine radar system. The SONAR system of the sub is composed by the, Thales S-cube integrated sonar suite and passive ranging distributed array sonar.

Primarily being a hunter killer submarine, it is equipped with six 533mm mts torpedoes which can strike naval targets with pin-point accuracy. The submarine can carry up to 18 black shark heavy weight torpedoes. The sub’s unique ability is to launch cruise missiles capable of striking land targets for which the sub employs the SM39 Exocet anti-shipping missiles. The submarine is redesigned to be fitted with the BrahMos cruise missiles and the indigenously developed Nirbhay cruise missile. The submarine can carry up to 30 mines for mine laying missions.


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