With submarine force levels dipping, India has energised its plan to build conventional diesel-electric submarines. A four-pronged plan is now being driven at “top speed” with first ensuring that deadlines are met in the ongoing construction of the six subs, then starting the second lot of six such vessels, then designing and building additional such vessels indigenously and finally extending refit to existing ageing subs to prolong their life. At present, India has 13 conventional vessels and a nuclear one leased from Russia. The existing submarine plan announced in 1999 had spoken of having 24 conventional submarines by 2030. Half way through, not a single vessel has sailed. The Indian fleet is grossly inadequate to match China. The annual report to the Congress in the US, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014”, says: “PLA Navy (PLAN) has more than 60 submarines (and) places a high priority on modernisation of its submarine force.” These under-sea war-going vessels remain the most potent threat at sea and to warships and despite newer technologies, it’s nearly impossible to detect a sub sailing some 30 metre deep. Sources said the focus was now four-pronged. The six under-construction “Scorpene-class” submarines are being made by French company DCNS at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), a Defence Ministry-owned shipyard in Mumbai. The first one is slated to be delivered in September 2016 with the next five followed by an interval of nine months each. The fifth and sixth vessels will have the air independent propulsion (AIP) and a decision has been taken that all “Scorpenes” will be retrofitted with the “AIP plug”, which will add to submergence capabilities allowing the sub to dive for 12-15 days without re-emerging to “breathe”. Another six submarines are to be made under “project 75-India”, which will be made in India. A committee has been formed and given 10 weeks, starting in March, to indentify which shipyard in India will be asked to make the vessels with a foreign collaborator. There are three players — ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany, which owns the submarine arm HDW, the Russians and the French DCNS. The US does not make conventional subs anymore. These will have AIP, greater stealth and land-attack capability.