KEY POINTS

  • India floated a tender to built six new-generation conventional stealth submarines
  • These submarines will be armed with land-attack cruise missiles and torpedoes
  • It also acquired two MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine choppers called 'submarine hunters'

India is looking to strengthen its vast naval force by amassing advanced submarines and choppers in a bid to counter China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean. 

Besides formally acquiring two MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine helicopters from the U.S., India on Tuesday issued a tender to construct six new-generation conventional stealth submarines, reports The Times Of India.

Made at home but with foreign help, these submarines will be armed with 18 land-attack cruise missiles and heavyweight torpedoes. The submarine will also be equipped with fuel-cell-based air-independent propulsion that will help with better underwater endurance. 

India lacks a strong underwater mechanism to counter Chinese warships and submarines that regularly foray into the Indian Ocean. Half of the 12 very old diesel-electric submarines India owns are slated to retire this year. However, India's INS Arihant, a nuclear submarine with short-range ballistic missiles which became fully operational in 2018, and INS Chakra are the most valued underwater assets of the Indian Navy.  

It is to rectify this situation that India mooted the $7-million 'Project-75 India,' specifically to boost indigenous defense production. The plan is to have at least 18 diesel-electric conventional submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and four nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. 

Meanwhile, India also received the first two of the 24 MH-60 'Romeo' anti-submarine helicopters at the San Diego’s Naval Air Station North Island in the United States. This, according to the Indian Navy, will enhance its capabilities on the surface, in the air, and underwater.

The two choppers are from the U.S. Navy’s stock, and the first batch of these 'submarine hunters' will land in India next year. The Romeo is an all-weather helicopter designed to support multiple missions with state-of-the-art avionics and sensors. 

According to the Indian Navy, these choppers will be modified with equipment and weapons unique to India, like sensors and specialized weapons packages. These include Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedoes. Currently, the Navy uses P-8i aircraft for anti-submarine operations.  

The Romeo also has anti-surface warfare capabilities that help them detect surface threats, thereby attack enemy ships. 

Meanwhile, hinting that the focus is clearly on the underwater battle, Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of U.S. naval operations, said many U.S. allies want to train with the U.S. Navy on anti-submarine warfare, as a means to counter Russia and China. 

Though the U.S. Navy's focus on anti-submarine warfare waned post the Cold War, Russia's and China's growing underwater sea fleets have brought the attention back to it. 

Indian navy File image of an Indian navy serviceman on the gangplank of the newly commissioned warship Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui