From depths to difficulties: A close look at the general characteristics and service history of INS Sindhughosh

INS Sindhughosh (S55), India’s premier diesel-electric submarine, was commissioned in 1986 and possesses fearsome capabilities, including Klub ZM-54E missiles. Despite setbacks like the 2008 collision, a 2013 fire, and a 2014 grounding, the crew’s fortitude prevails.

INS Sindhughosh (S55) is the flagship vessel of its class among the Indian Navy’s diesel-electric submarines. This submarine, commissioned on April 30, 1986, in Riga, Latvia, under the leadership of Commander K C Varghese, has a diesel-powered propulsion system that includes six engines.

Notably, INS Sindhughosh is the first submarine in the Indian Navy to be outfitted with the Klub ZM-54E SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missiles, giving it an astounding range of 220 kilometres (140 miles). This strategic enhancement expands the submarine’s capabilities and emphasises its position as a formidable weapon in the naval fleet.

 

General characteristics:

The INS Sindhughosh (S55) is a Sindhughosh-class submarine with a surface displacement of 2325 tonnes and a submerged displacement of 3076 tonnes. Its 72.6-meter length, 9.9-meter beam, and 6.6-meter draft demonstrate a strong design for underwater operations.

The submarine has multiple propulsion systems, such as two 3,650 hp diesel-electric engines, one 5,900 hp motor, two 204 hp auxiliary motors, and one 130 hp economic speed motor. With this assortment of power systems, the INS Sindhughosh can accomplish a variety of speeds, such as 11 knots when surfaced, 9 knots in snorkel mode, and an astonishing 19 knots when submerged.

The submarine has a long operational range, capable of travelling 6,000 miles at 7 knots in snorting mode and 400 miles at 3 knots when submerged. The INS Sindhughosh can hold a crew of 52 people, including 13 officers, for up to 45 days.

In terms of depth capability, the submarine can operate at a depth of 240 metres and a maximum of 300 metres. The ship is armed with a 9M36 Strela-3 (SA-N-8) surface-to-air missile launcher, Klub-S (3M-54E) anti-ship cruise missiles, Type 53-65 passive wake homing torpedoes, and TEST 71/76 anti-submarine torpedoes. Furthermore, the INS Sindhughosh can deploy 24 DM-1 mines in place of a torpedo tube, increasing its strategic potential for a variety of naval missions.

 

Service History:

NS Sindhughosh (S55) has a service history that includes several incidents that highlight both its operational obstacles and the crew’s tenacity. On January 7, 2008, the submarine collided with the foreign merchant vessel MV Leeds Castle. During fleet-level war games, the submarine collided in the seas north of Mumbai as it attempted to surface. The submarine, which was underwater with its radars turned off and periscope down, collided with the MV Leeds Castle near India’s Diu Island, about 400 nautical miles from Mumbai. The submarine experienced slight damage to the conning tower area, and questions were raised regarding the malfunctioning of the indigenously produced USHUS sonar, which was thought to have had a direct role in the accident. The submarine was then transported to a navy dockyard in Mumbai, where a Board of Inquiry was established to investigate the incident.

On another occasion, on August 14, 2013, INS Sindhughosh encountered a different issue when it suffered slight damage in a fire. The fire caused explosions and the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak, which was docked alongside the Sindhughosh in Mumbai. The navy did not officially disclose the magnitude of the damage done to Sindhughosh. The situation added another layer of complexity to the submarine’s service history, emphasising the inherent risks and dangers of naval operations.

Additionally, on January 17, 2014, INS Sindhughosh fell aground due to low tide on its way back to Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. This incident, although less severe than earlier crashes and fire damage, highlighted the significance of navigational precision, even in everyday operations. The grounding incident posed obstacles to the submarine’s safe recovery, necessitating coordinated efforts to refloat and restore it to operational status.

Despite these mishaps, it is critical to recognise the crew’s incredible escape during the collision in 2008, which occurred at ground level. The claims of structural deterioration, although concerning, highlight the rigorous inspections and maintenance requirements for submarines, considering their important role in naval operations. The service history of INS Sindhughosh demonstrates the complicated and rigorous nature of submarine operations, where the crew must manage challenges ranging from collisions to fires and groundings to ensure the vessel’s operational readiness and safety.