Smaller but Deadlier Undersea Lethality

Losharik and MotherShip-Model of a Yankee or Delta class submarine acting as mothership to what may be a Losharik 60-80m long submarine attached to its belly.

Indian Navy’s undersea capabilities are reviving now. Few years back when the mishap of INS Sindhurakshak happened, the modernization policies of navy’s undersea fleet came into lot of criticism.

With the retrofitting of INS SINDHUGOSH class submarines, sea trials of MAKE IN INDIA fame INS KALVARI (French Scorpene class SSK), near to induction INS Arihant (SSBN) these are some on ground display facts of indian navy’s undersea fleet modernization.

With the speculation of new order for 3 Scorpene Class or 2 Improved Kilo class or both, IN plan for strong undersea fleet is becoming a reality. Arihant Class SSBN, 6 new SSNs Project along with Project 75I SSKs is going to boast the supremacy of Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean by the end of next decade. Indian Govt has announced the P75I will be the last order for foreign firms and P76 will be indigenous design. But all of these are big steps forward and definitive of giving Indian Navy a status of strong force in the region.

In today’s modern military technology era when everybody talks about 4th/5th/6th generation weapon platforms where stealth abilities, hypersonic weapons & high definition surveillance from satellites makes every other traditional weapon platform useless, india should focus on short term but lethal developments of weapon platform as per the need of the hour apart from making high end modernization plans which took lot of years for completion.

IN should focus on intermediate Small Submarine program (S.Sub) prior to P76 project as Joint Development Program with foreign submarine design organization. The technology of 2050 will be highly advanced and India need to develop industry for Design and R&D before Project 76. Distributed Lethality The success of the Indo-Pak naval war of 1971 is attributed to the Osa Class missile boats. These missile boats was able to inflict major damage to Karachi/Pakistan Navy during the Operation Trident. In the current A2/AD environment, recreating the success of Operation Trident is very difficult.

The small submarines less than 1000 tons with highly incorporated stealth design and features will come under affordable cost and build time. These subs can provide high attack and survivalance dimensions due to their size and stealth features. These subs will provide IN options to avoid using their large and costly assets to deploy on small but valuable and risky missions.

If IN develops fleet of small stealth attack submarines with AIP abilities then these subs can carry future hypersonic weapons like hypersonic Brahmos-2 . It will provide non defensible fire power to attack critical A2/AD systems of enemy. Fleet of S.Subs can be distributed to attack several targets at the same time. S.Sub can provide the first attack on critical infrastructure (Warships, Port Communication, A2/AD, Submarines) before full scale attack with Naval Fleet. Iran and North Korea has adopted distributed lethality with missile boat and midget submarines. In Syria, Russian Navy fired Kalibr cruise missile from Buyan Class corvette in Caspian sea.

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Specification of Small Submarine (S.Subs) –

Dimensions: Submarine of 500-1000 Tons with small dimensions with maximum endurance & range for the class. Diving depth should be enhanced with stronger Hull or coatings.

Power: AIP and Lithium ion battery should form the back bone with diesel engine as standby.

Crew: Crew size should be limited with focus on maximum automation. It should be capable of fully automatic reconnaissance mission.

Armaments: S.Sub should be capable of launching Brahmos from either VLS or Torpedo tubes. Surveillance Systems, decoys and Torpedoes mounted externally. (or retractable pods in order to maintain stealth)

Modular: Both VLS or Torpedo tubes should be configured within short duration to launch Brahmos NG, Torpedo, mines and automatic reconnaissance unit with respect to the mission.

Capability Type: Autonomous: S.Sub capable of working autonomously for attack and patrol operation. Submarine with carry enough fuel and armaments for the entire mission along with adequate crew comfort and surplus food supplies. Mainly works on Diesel engine in snorkeling mode except on missions of stealth which requires AIP & Batteries for submerged mode.

Mother Ship: S.Sub will be the extension of mother ship for specific mission of reconnaissance, anti submarine and anti surface warfare. Mission should be of short duration limited by undersea endurance. Works mainly on Batteries & AIP. The needs for diesel engine doesn’t arise unless it also operates autonomously. Nuclear Submarine, Destroyers, LHD can act as mother ship. The fuel & armaments should be provided by mother ship for specific mission. Maximum automation for reduced crew size with limited crew comfort and food supplies. Mother ship in case of Nuclear Submarine should be able to drop the S.Subs at specified location at high submerged speed and recover after the mission. Case for Joint Development with Rubin Design Bureau Russia Both VLS or Torpedo tubes should be configured within short duration to launch Brahmos NG, Torpedo, mines and automatic recon.Rubin has been offering Improved Kilo class and Amur Class submarine. Kilo class has been nicknamed as Black hole for being quietest diesel electric submarine and Amur class is eight times quieter than Kilo class. Rubin has offered AIP and VLS for Brahmos in Amur class. Rubin has three different versions of less than 1000 tons. Amur 550, Amur 700 along with the fully developed Amur 950. IN has been a customer of Russian maritime systems for many decades with notable purchase of Submarine, Frigate and Aircraft carrier. Russia has helped Indian shipyard build nuclear submarine INS Arihant and Aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. India and Russia can jointly develop the indigenous submarine derived from Amur class similar to the Joint Venture of Russia & Italy for S1000 class submarine. Russian have experience in mother ship submarine with Delta class as mother ship for Paltus class sub.

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Basing Small Submarines in Andaman & Nicobar Island Indian Navy needs a strong force under Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC). ANC is closest to Malacca Strait choke point. ANC command has 20 surface warships, but does not have submarine force. IN needs strong undersea fleet of attack submarines in Andaman Sea to track the Chinese submarines lurking in Indian Ocean. Basing S.Sub will be cost effective for reconnaissance and anti submarine operation. S.Sub range will be ideal for power projection in Andaman Sea and defense of Indian EEZ. Strong submarine force will deter any adventure of Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean and boast the moral of ASEAN member states.

India can choke out Chinese string of pearls by using small stealth subs and stealth missile boats which allows Indian navy to deploy the distributed lethality in large numbers and in effective way.

The whispered 4th fleet of PLAN(people’s liberation army navy) which also has a nickname the GHOST-FLEET is planned for Indian Ocean deployment. The first line of defense for india is Vietnam & A&N command as second. Here IN can strongly use small stealth subs and stealth missile boats under gurilla warfare to pulverize Chinese fleet before it could think to get even near to indian mainland or engage with eastern naval fleet.

The world is changing, allies required in this bi-polar world so is the distributed lethality when war starts.


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This article has been written by Swanand Dixit exclusively for
Location : Mumbai
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Losharik and MotherShip-Model of a Yankee or Delta class submarine acting as mothership to what may be a Losharik 60-80m long submarine attached to its belly.