The 98 Black Shark torpedoes intended to be installed on the Khanderi were to be made by WASS, an auxiliary of the Italian company Leonardo. Plans to acquire the missiles were canceled in May 2016 amid corruption charges leveled against the Indian National Congress party and AgustaWestland, a Leonardo subsidiary.
Thursday’s launch will mark the beginning of extensive sea testing for the Khanderi that will last until December 2017. Once trials are complete, the Indian Navy will commission the sub as the INS Khanderi. The diesel-electric attack submarine is one of six Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL)-built vessels acquired under a 2004 $3.5-billion contract between New Delhi and French shipbuilder DCNS.
Naval chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said at the launch, "The day is not far off when India will build submarines for other nations," according to the Hindustan Times.
Retired Indian Navy Captain Shyam Kumar Singh told Defense News, "The force strength of submarines is very low at this point. The reason for this situation is the closure of Shisumar (German HDW) class project and delay in the Scorpene project. The existing submarines are less than 25 years old. With this background, launch of the second submarine at MDL is of great importance."
Retired Indian Navy commodore and defense analyst Anil Jai Singh disagrees, offering that New Delhi’s submarine industry is a work in progress. He said, "Submarine construction in India will truly come of age when we are able to design and build our own submarines. The first two Scorpene submarines have been built in India to complete specifications provided by DCNS France. In this case, most of the submarine is imported with some indigenous content."
MoD officials have pointed to MDL’s infrastructure expansion, material purchasing, and lack of high-tech, as reasons for the program’s delay.
In August of 2016 an Australian newspaper reported that thousands of pages of supposedly classified submarine documents had been released, which placed the security of the Scorpene program in jeopardy.
As a result, the MoD did not mount torpedoes on the two most recent submarines, making additional orders unlikely.
Singh said, "Considering the time frame of first submarine to be commissioned by 2018 and optimistically one every year, the current program will go on till 2023. Placement of further orders with old specifications may not be prudent at this stage."
The multipurpose Khanderi’s capabilities include anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, anti-surface warfare, area surveillance and mine laying. The sub is named for an island fort used by Maratha forces that ensured India’s naval strength in the 17th century.