INS Sindhurakshak tragedy: Effectively, a fifth of the underwater fleet is gone

SindhurakshakA K Antony, Prithviraj Chavan and D K Joshi visiting the naval dockyard following the INS Sindhurakshak submarine mishap, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (PTI)

The loss of the INS Sindhurakshak is a crippling blow for the Indian Navy which already stacks up poorly when it comes to underwater capabilities.

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Not only was the vessel the Navy's most modern submarine, having returned in April after extensive refit and modernisation in Russia, its loss means that 20 per cent of India's underwater fleet is now inoperable. The remaining are at the end of their service lives and have been given extensions.

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While the authorised strength of the Navy is 24 conventional submarines, the actual strength has been steadily decreasing over the past few years with the decommissioning of the older Foxtrot class of Russian vessels.

According to the current record books, India has only two classes of submarines — four older generation HDW 209 Shishumar class and 10 Russian origin Kilo Sindhughosh class submarines which the Navy considers as its cutting-edge fleet. Even this on-paper strength is not adequate to protect India's 7,500 km coastline, forget about operations in faraway waters.

A cruel blow to Navy's weakest link

The INS Sindhukirti has been undergoing a refit at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited since 2003. The newest of the Kilo class, the Sindhushastra, too is up for refit at HSL.

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The refitted Sindhurakshak its Rs 815-crore modernisation plan gave it the latest land and ship attack missiles, and a Porpoise radio locater to detect enemy warships — was to render service for 15 more years.

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