Commodore Roby Thomas, a senior fellow in the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), recently published a paper named ‘Nuclear Attack Submarines: The Elixir for a True Blue-Water Navy.’ The study states that a host of SSNs known as the nuclear-powered general purpose attack submarines are required to fulfill the massive power expectations of the Indo-Pacific, The New Indian Express reports.
The manufacturing and maintenance cost of the SSN is more than that of SSK, which is an original diesel electric submarine. However, Commodore Thomas referred to a US Navy study that revealed that around 2.2-6 SSKs are required to match the effectiveness of a solitary SSN.
Hence, keeping the same on-station capability as a benchmark, the cost of an SSK fleet will be 1.3-3.5 times more than that of an SSN fleet. This is despite the SSK having a lower single-platform cost. As of now, India has 16 SSKs and only one SSN that has been leased from Russia. In addition to that, the Indian Navy also has one ballistic missile submarine (SSBN).
The report from the IDSA read, “Nuclear submarines are national strategic assets and even the best of friends do not part with this technology. For example… the US only gave Britain the reactor to operationalise its first SSN, HMS Dreadnought, and subsequently the Trident SLBM, but never the entire submarine. Similarly, Russia provided India with SSNs on lease to gain experience and training, never to own.”
In fact, the study noted that a conventional submarine can be built in collaboration by spending the appropriate amount of money. However, the same is not the case with the SSN as it takes a significant period of time to develop, nurture and maintain its technology.