India is set to approve the indigenous construction of three nuclear-powered attack submarines to counter the Chinese PLA’s rapid expansion in the Indian Ocean.
This will be followed by the approval for another three such submarines at a later stage, The Times of India reported.
The daily reported that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is finally considering approving the project “within few months” as the Navy pushes for the capability enhancement in the IOR.
The Indian Navy had last month expressed the urgent need for inducting six nuclear-powered submarines, which it said should take priority over a third heavy aircraft carrier.
With China having developed the capacity to produce 12,000-ton Renhai class destroyers in just five years, the Indian Navy is pushing for its own undersea assets in the IOR.
On the other hand, Pakistan is also massively growing its submarine fleet, and the upcoming induction of eight Chinese-designed Type-039B Yuan Class boats would give Pakistan Navy a decisive advantage at the sea.
Pakistan operates five French-designed Agosta-class submarines. The country is also upgrading many of its submarines with Turkish assistance.
First upgraded Agosta-90 SSK is now deployed in Arabian Sea for Sea Trials. 🇵🇰🇹🇷
The submarine has underwent through major upgrades in Turkey making it as capable as any modern SSKs around the Globe.
© Ahmad Tipu (@AhmAdTipu7)#Pakistan #Turkey #PakistanNavy pic.twitter.com/gAN1L9JgZb
— Developing Pakistan (@DevelopmentPk) March 12, 2020
The Indian submarine project involves the construction of six 6,000-ton nuclear-powered attack submarines (or SSNs), at the Vizag ship-building center. For now, the CCS will only be approving three indigenous SSNs, which are expected to be inducted by 2032.
The nuclear-powered submarines offer the advantage of stealth with their ability to remain submerged underwater for months, which means they can patrol the whole Indo-Pacific without having to come to the surface and be vulnerable to detection.
Unlike SSBNs which are armed with nuclear ballistic missiles, these underwater vehicles are not strategic assets and serve the role of attack submarines to hunt rival subs and ships. The presence of long-range cruise missiles onboard SSNs also gives them the ability to strike land targets.
Type-94A Jin Class strategic nuclear submarine of #PLA Navy is without a doubt a monster. Look at those vertical launch tubes. pic.twitter.com/gstPbLCmO1
— ST © (@aviation07101) September 9, 2020
India partially completed its nuclear triad in late 2018 when its first SSBN INS Arihant successfully conducted a deterrence patrol and was operationalized.
The country’s second SSBN is expected to be commissioned by the end of this year, giving a credible deterrence boost to the country.
China is also ramping up its submarine fleet and already has nearly a dozen SSNs in operation. The newly-inducted Type 095 attack submarine in the PLA Navy comes with a reduced acoustic signature enabling the submarine to go undetected underwater.
With just one SSN, INS Chakra, currently in operation, India will need to significantly push for more capabilities in the Indian ocean. The country signed a $3-billion deal with Russia in March 2019 to eventually replace the Akula-class submarine with a more advanced SSN.
The Indian Navy has been lobbying for more SSNs to be produced domestically to complement the existing naval capability in the IOR.
India will need major capability enhancement to match that of China’s which is considered the world’s largest navy, possessing over 350 warships, including 50 conventional and 10 nuclear submarines.
The Chinese Navy is expected to grow to a formidable force of 450 ships and 110 submarines by 2030. India will have to significantly ramp up its naval assets to compete with its rising adversary in the future.