The Indian Navy is getting ready to strengthen its already powerful arsenals in the coming years. During his two-day trip to France this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to sign deals for the purchase of 26 Rafale-Marine fighters for the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier and a repeat order for the building of three additional Scorpene (Kalveri) class submarines at Mazagon Dockyards Limited (MDL) using the “Make in India” initiative.
Though it is not revealed publicly about the defense deals to be signed during PM Modi’s visit to France, it is believed that India and France will sign a defense-industrial road map during PM’s visit to Paris on July 13–14. This agreement will compel India to increase the production of hardware platforms using indigenously developed engines and technologies. A bilateral road map for the Indo-Pacific region with efforts to maintain freedom of navigation and marine security for sea routes in the region, will also be unveiled by PM Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
According to information from South Block, Rajnath Singh, the defense minister, has called a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on July 13, to approve the Indian Navy’s request to purchase 26 Rafale-M fighters. The meeting will also approve the construction of three more Kalveri class submarines at the MDL. The final Kalveri class submarine, INS Vagsheer, which is now undergoing tests and trials, is scheduled to be commissioned next year.
The three additional Kalvari class submarines will be fitted with air independent propulsion (AIP), which has been designed by the DRDO. They will be tested and validated by the French Naval Group. The AIP gives longer endurance to a normal diesel attack submarine and allows it to remain submerged for over a week without the need to surface to charge its batteries.
While the DAC will approve AON for acquisition of 26 Rafale-M aircraft for INS Vikrant, the price, terms and conditions will be negotiated after this through the government-to-government route with the French government getting the best price from Dassault Aviation. All the 26 fighters will be single-seater versions with Indian Navy pilots being trained in France as well as on advanced simulators in Goa. It is understood that one squadron (18 fighters) will be onboard INS Vikrant and the remaining eight will be based in Goa as reserves for rotation.
In addition to giving the Indian Navy more strength to meet the challenge of PLA expansion in the Indian Ocean, the repeat order for three Scorpene class submarines through the government-to-government route will also revitalize MDL’s submarine manufacturing capacity after INS Vaghsheer is commissioned in 2024.