Friday, December 10, 2010
Indian Navy Sees Midget Submarines as Primary Threat
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard believe that improvised mini-submarines constitute the nation's primary emerging threat. These may range from swimmer-delivery vehicles of the type employed for recreational scuba diving to remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles. These types of vehicles are already in service with the navies of Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan (all having procured them from North Korea).
As has been amply demonstrated by the navies of North Korea and Iran, these small vessels make good platforms for ambushes even at submerged depths of 150 feet, enough room for the midget submersible to maneuver. These submarines cannot travel too far on their own, and depend on support vessels to extend their range. However, in their shallow water element where sonar returns are cluttered, they can prove quiet and deadly. Their capabilities include the ability to lay mines or insert commandos on beaches.
As North Korea demonstrated with the sinking of the Cheonan, attacks from midget submersibles can also include torpedoes armed with 250-kilogram warheads.
The Indian Navy believes that two factors heighten the risk of an ambush by midget submarines against Indian warships. These are the complex sonar picture of shallow water where these small submersibles can operate, and the absence of a network of seabed-mounted sonar transducers dotting the Indian coastline. With the exception of Port Blair, none of the 200 non-major ports in India are equipped with any identification or surveillance systems, and there are currently no concrete ground rules for patrolling India’s inshore coastal areas and the numerous creeks and rivulets along the coastline.
In early 2009, the Indian Navy proposed that a Maritime Security Adviser (MSA) be appointed, along with a supporting Maritime Security Advisory Board (MSAB), to take stock of the growing oceanic influence on India’s foreign policy. The intention was for the MSAB to coordinate the operations of more than 14 government departments and agencies responsible for various elements of maritime affairs with several security agencies with jurisdictions along India’s coastline. This proposal has not been adopted.