Yesterday (January 23), the Indian Navy commissioned the fifth Scorpene-class submarine, INS Vagir. This leaves only the sixth and final submarine on the construction line.

According to the Hindustan Times, the Navy plans to purchase three extra Scorpene-class vessels in order to maintain manufacturing.

According to the source, the Navy may soon submit an Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) request for three additional submarines to the Defense Acquisition Council.

The Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) and the Naval Group just yesterday (23 January) inked a contract for the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). These three submarines may also be outfitted with this system.

The INS Kalvari, the lead ship of the Scorpene class, will “soon” be outfitted with the indigenous AIP system, the Ministry of Defense announced following the deal’s signing.

A contract was struck in 2005 with France’s DCNS (formerly known as Naval Group) to produce six Scorpene-class submarines at the cost of $3 billion with full Transfer of Technology (ToT). The agreement included an option to purchase three further submarines.

Former defense minister Manohar Parrikar advised that the Navy exploit this option clause to purchase additional submarines. However, the option clause was not invoked due to Admiral Robin Dhawan’s urging at the time.

Since then, the Navy has been unable to place orders for further submarines.

Project-75I, the Navy’s next-generation submarine program, has had multiple delays and is unlikely to move forward in the near future.

Seven submarines of the Russian Kilo-class, four German U-209 class, and five of the newest Kalvari-class are among the approximately 16 subs in service with the Indian Navy (one is in the fitting-out stage).

The older submarines now in service with the Navy will begin to retire by the end of this decade or the beginning of the following decade, at which point the numbers will begin to decline once more.

At a time when Pakistan is scheduled to receive eight AIP-equipped Chinese submarines over the next few years, this number is insufficient to protect a region as vast as the Indian Ocean.

In contrast, the Chinese add multiple warships and submarines to their fleet each year.