Project 76: India’s Pathway for Underwater Defence

Girish Linganna, Defense & Aerospace Analyst and Director ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd

The Indian Navy is intensifying its pursuit of self-sufficiency in underwater warfare through the ambitious Project-76. This initiative is poised to propel the development of advanced indigenous conventional diesel submarines, marking a significant stride in naval capabilities. As Project-76 awaits the finalization of the ongoing Project-75I submarine acquisition deal, the Warship Design Bureau (WDB) is already diligently working towards achieving a fully conceptualized design by 2026. Envisioned as air-independent propulsion (AIP)-equipped diesel-electric attack submarines, these formidable underwater vessels, expected to have a submerged displacement of 3,000 tons, represent a leap beyond their foreign-designed predecessors like Project-751 (India) and Project-75 submarines. Inside sources suggest that Project-76 aims to succeed the renowned Sindhughosh (Kilo) class, emphasizing the Navy’s commitment to maintaining a robust 3,000-ton class of submarines.

Brief History

Examining India’s history of submarine development reveals the nation’s successful endeavours in constructing both conventional and nuclear-powered submarines. However, the aspect of submarine design remains an area where collaboration with foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) is sought.
Submarine construction involves two critical components – “know-how and know why.” Knowhow entails the foreign OEM providing the design and facilitating the complete assimilation of technology for submarine construction.
Over the past three decades, India has acquired technology for submarines like the Type 209 and the Scorpene. Significantly, the country has demonstrated self-reliance in developing its own nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and has an approved plan for the creation of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

In 1988, India leased its first Charlie-class nuclear submarine, ‘INS Chakra,’ from the Soviet Union, marking a pivotal moment in gaining valuable experience. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report advocated for the establishment of a nuclear triad forces in India. The completion of INS Arihant’s entry in November 2019 marked India’s achievement of a “Survivable Nuclear Triad,” enabling the launch of nuclear strikes from land, air, and sea. This accomplishment positions India among the nations capable of designing, constructing, and operating strategic strike nuclear submarines (SSBN).

India is on the verge of launching two more submarines, INS Arighat and INS Aridhaman, expected next year. Recent tests involved the K-15 missile with a range of 750 km and the K-4 missile with a range of 3500 km. These submarines can be equipped with the K-series of missiles, named after Dr. Kalam, and there are ongoing developments for the K-5 and K-6 nuclear-capable missiles, boasting a range of 5000 to 6000 km.

Project 76 and its implications in India

Project 76 represents a pivotal milestone in India’s pursuit of maritime supremacy, amalgamating top-tier French technology from Project 75 and the expertise of German/Spanish collaboration from Project 751 (India). This endeavour is further enriched by the valuable insights gained through the ongoing nuclear attack submarine program. Collaborating actively with both government-owned Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and major players in the private sector, the Indian Navy aims to cultivate state-of-the-art technologies tailored to the program’s specific requirements.

Comprising the procurement of six submarines in two phases, Project 76’s second batch is poised to integrate even more advanced features. Although the entire project is anticipated to commence post-2030, the inaugural submarine is projected to embark on sea trials only after 2036.

Going beyond a mere submarine acquisition initiative, Project 76 signifies a bold stride towards achieving strategic independence in a critical domain. By mastering the intricacies of design, development, and construction, India not only enhances its Navy’s underwater capabilities significantly but also positions itself favourably for future defence collaborations and technology transfers. Within the framework of Project 76, the Warship Design Bureau of the Indian Navy is actively engaged in the design and development of the nation’s inaugural indigenously built conventional diesel-electric submarine. The ambitious plan entails the construction of 12 submarines under this project, each equipped with cutting-edge features such as Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology, an indigenous Weapon Control system, and advanced Lithium-ion batteries. The design phase is anticipated to conclude within the next eighteen months.

Following the design phase, there will be a focused effort on further refining, testing, and advancing critical submarine technologies. The objective is to initiate the construction of the prototype by 2028. This undertaking holds immense significance for India’s submarine-building capabilities, aiming to reduce reliance on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for submarine design.
 Need for SLBMs

In the contemporary global landscape, submarines emerge as crucial strategic assets, playing a pivotal role in securing access to the world’s oceans and asserting dominance in territorial waters. The significance of submarine presence was notably demonstrated in 2014 when Russia seized control of port facilities in Crimea, strategically positioning its Black Sea fleet in the Crimean Peninsula. This move strategically interconnected routes through the Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea, extending Russia’s reach to Asia.

Similarly, China, recognizing the strategic importance of submarine capabilities, has pursued access routes from the South China Sea to the Pacific, Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, and the Atlantic Ocean. Noteworthy is China’s expansive reach from Gwadar in Pakistan to Coco Island in Myanmar, situated near the Indian shores. India, lacking overseas bases, must prioritize strategic reach in the world’s oceans to safeguard its economic and strategic interests.

In response to China’s advancements, particularly in developing ‘stealth’ submarines, it becomes imperative for India to draw from historical lessons, including those from the 1962 war, and proactively counterbalance China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy. The development of Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) becomes essential for India to enhance its maritime capabilities and ensure a robust defence posture in the evolving geopolitical scenario.

Project 76 signifies India’s ambitious leap towards maritime supremacy and self-reliance in underwater defence. With an emphasis on indigenous conventional diesel-electric submarines, it integrates French and German/Spanish technologies, showcasing a strategic blend of expertise. The project, involving collaboration with government-owned entities and private-sector giants, not only aims for submarine acquisition but also emphasizes mastering submarine design.

Girish Linganna is a Defense & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH.

I=mage Credits; Indian Defence News

Project 76: India’s Pathway for Underwater Defence

The Temple-Economics and Security

Project 76: India’s Pathway for Underwater Defence

Two killed, four injured after Moroccan passenger

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *