NEW DELHI: The utter lack of long-term strategic planning in the Indian defence establishment was once again evident on Wednesday when the country for the first time tested the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from underwater. The submarine-launched version of the missile was “successfully” tested from an underwater pontoon off Visakhapatnam around 2.10pm. BrahMos chief Mr A Sivathanu Pillai promptly declared, “The missile is fully ready for fitment in the ‘Project-75 India’ submarines of the Indian Navy in vertical launch configuration, which will make the platform (submarine) one of the most powerful weapon platform in the world.” Defence minister Mr A K Antony also chipped in soon after by saying, “It’s a wonderful achievement and proud moment for India.” DRDO chief Dr V K Saraswat said it was “a significant step towards boosting India’s military strength”. Other defence scientists proclaimed this was “first time any supersonic cruise missile has been launched vertically from a submerged platform”. Amid all these gushing accolades, they however forgot to mention one critical fact: the Project-75 India submarines are nothing but a mere pipedream at present. With even the initial global tender or RFP (request for proposal) for them yet to be floated, the Navy will not get the first such submarine anytime before 2023. “What’s the use of having bullets but no gun to fire them from? Even if the defence ministry gets cracking immediately on the long-delayed P-75I, it will take three to four years to select the foreign submarine-manufacturer for technological collaboration. Thereafter, it will take another seven to eight years for the first submarine to roll out,” said a senior official. The BrahMos missile cannot be fitted on the Navy’s existing fleet of 10 ageing Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines, half of them in any case are fully operational at any given time. Nor can it be deployed on the six French Scorpene submarines being constructed in the Rs 23,562-crore Project-75 underway at Mazagon Docks (MDL) in Mumbai, under which the vessels will now be delivered in the 2015-2020 timeframe three years behind schedule. Project-75 India, in turn, has failed to take off after going around in circles for several years now. The Cabinet committee on security will have to clear the RFP before it is issued because two of the submarines have to imported from the foreign vendor finally selected. Three will subsequently be built at MDL, and the last at Hindustan Shipyard at Visakhapatnam, after transfer of technology. All this of course does not detract from the utility of the air-breathing BrahMos, which flies at the speed of Mach 2.8, as a “precision strike weapon”. It has been inducted by some artillery regiments in the Army as well as a few naval warships. The Army is moving ahead to induct three versions of the multi-role BrahMos, having already placed orders worth Rs 9,484 crore, over the next two-three years. Navy and IAF, in turn, have ordered BrahMos missiles worth Rs 3,568 crore and Rs 1,295 crore, respectively, as of now.
Source: Times of India