Navy plans missiles for four submarines

The Navy is planning a major upgrade for its Shishumar class of submarines by equipping them with tube-launched missiles, a step that will exponentially increase their capability to take on enemy warships. The fleet of four submarines purchased from Germany's HDW is currently equipped only with torpedoes and mine-laying equipment.

Sources said the Navy had moved a proposal to the Ministry of Defence to equip the fleet with Harpoon anti-ship missiles when the submarines go for the next round of refits. In the first step, the Navy plans to upgrade the INS Shalki and Shankul with the Harpoon system, followed by the two older submarines in the class.

With a range of over 150 nautical miles, Harpoon missiles will give much needed teeth to the Indian Navy that has come under the scanner lately after repeated reports by the Parliament Standing Committee on the depleting submarine fleet. At present, the Navy operates only 14 submarines against the sanctioned strength of 24 due to delays in new acquisitions.

Sources said the plan to upgrade the HDW vessels the only other class in service is the 10 Kilo Class submarines of Russian origin is part of the Navy's efforts to maximise the utility of the dwindling submarine fleet.

At present, the combat range of the Shishumar class is limited to under 20 nautical miles the effective range of its AES SUT torpedoes. While the silent nature of the submarine makes it a deadly adversary even with this range, modern sensors and anti-submarine equipment available with neighbouring nations can make it vulnerable.

The ability to launch anti-ship missiles from as far away as 150 nautical miles will give a strong edge to the fleet. The Kilo Class submarines are equipped with anti-ship Klub S missiles with a range of just over 100 nautical miles.

India has already placed two sets of orders for Harpoon missiles in the past four years under the Foreign Military Sales pact with the US. In 2008, 24 Block II missiles were purchased for $170 million to be fitted on board the Jaguar fighters assigned a Naval role.

In 2010, 21 more systems were purchased for nearly $200 million for the P8 I maritime surveillance aircraft.

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