The three submarines under negotiation by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders are expected to feature significantly more advanced capabilities than the Kalvari class
In the face of Pakistan’s impending acquisition of eight Chinese Yuan-class submarines by 2028, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders (MDL) is racing against time to secure a deal for constructing three additional diesel-electric Kalvari-class submarines in collaboration with the French Naval Group. This strategic move aims to ensure that MDL’s submarine production capacity, currently at 11, remains fully utilised.
MDL is in the final stages of preparing the sixth Kalvari-class submarine, INS Vagsheer, for sea trials. Simultaneously, discussions have commenced with Naval Group regarding the construction of the additional three submarines. These submarines will be outfitted with operation-specific features, including indigenous torpedoes and air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems for extended underwater endurance. Presently, heavyweight indigenous torpedoes and AIP technologies are undergoing operational validation tests in France.
Pakistan currently possesses an aging French Agosta 70 submarine (PNS Hurmat) and an upgraded Agosta 90 B submarine (PMS Hamza), both equipped with French single-use MESMA AIP systems. Additionally, Pakistan is set to introduce four Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines this year. Of particular significance is the Yuan-class 039 B submarine, which features AIP and possibly submarine-launched cruise missiles. This development heralds a major transformation in Pakistan’s submarine capabilities.
Advanced Features of The New Submarines
The three submarines under negotiation are expected to feature significantly more advanced capabilities than the Kalvari class. They may be extended by seven meters to accommodate additional batteries, enabling longer submerged durations. Alternatively, they could be lengthened by 10 meters to house the DRDO-designed AIP unit. These vessels will incorporate advanced optronics, electronic warfare suites, and heavyweight torpedoes with a range of 40 kilometers, coupled with higher explosive content. Furthermore, the submarines will be equipped with advanced/upgraded SM-39 Exocet missiles, with future iterations possibly carrying SCALP 1,000km range submarine-launched cruise missiles.
Naval Group, in collaboration with MDL, recently signed an MoU to construct submarines in Mumbai dockyards for export to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. A separate MoU with Kolkata-based GRSE is set to facilitate the construction of surface combatants like destroyers and frigates for export to third-party nations. These initiatives will ensure that the machine tooling capacity of the two dockyards remains robust.
Strengthening India’s Submarine Force Amid Regional Challenges
As India’s submarine fleet grapples with aging INS Shishumar (HDW) and INS Sindughosh (Kilo) class submarines due to spare parts issues arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, there is a growing need for additional sub-surface combatants. These submarines are essential for safeguarding India’s extensive 7,500km coastline and serving as a deterrence against potential threats from Pakistan and China. India’s indigenous submarine production capacity plays a pivotal role in bolstering its maritime defense capabilities, aligning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) vision in the defense and security sector.
As the United States anticipates a military emergency in Taiwan by 2027, the Indian Navy is acutely aware of the looming presence of Chinese patrols and conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines in the Indian Ocean by 2025-2026. This underscores the critical importance of promoting India’s indigenous submarine building capacity, which experts believe is the linchpin of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” plan in defence and security.