India Undocks Its First Stealth Submarine

In the depths of the ocean no one can hear you submarine
Malaysia's Tun Razak Scorpene-Model Submarine
Outisnn, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

If everything goes as planned, no one will see India’s new navy coming. The nation is committed to building a stealthy fleet, and now that vision has come one step closer to reality. The first of India’s six Scorpene stealth submarines was undocked yesterday. It will soon begin sea trials and eventually enter naval service.

The Scorpene is a French and Spanish design running on diesel generators, first made for the Chilean Navy and then later the navy of Malaysia. Submarines are already about as stealthy as possible for a naval vessel, since depths of water above the vessel provide ample protection from sight and radar. To make the Scorpene submarines especially stealthy, India’s design uses, according to Naval Technology, “high-yield stress-specific steel,” which allows the submarine to dive almost 1000 feet under the surface. While that metric is pretty commonplace for American and Russian subs, this will be India’s first ultra deep-diving submarine.

Further increasing the stealth of the ship are noise-canceling and -minimizing techniques–for example, Scorpene equipment is mounted on elastic, so that any vibrations from equipment inside the ship (like rumbling engines) don’t translate into loud sounds outside the vessel. The Scorpene’s body is also designed to be harder for sonar to detect, but submarine designer DCNS doesn’t explain how, noting only that “there is a very high level of acoustic discretion.”

All of this makes a stealthy weapon even stealthier. That’s great news for India, whose geopolitical rival and neighbor Pakistan just agreed to buy eight Chinese submarines.