China deploys submarine in Indian Ocean amid border standoff with India

China has deployed a submarine in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) amid border stand-off with India in the Doklam plateau.

The submarine is identified as a Type 039A (NATO reporting name: Yuan class) diesel electric attack submarine. This is the seventh submarine to be deployed in the area. Indian naval assets picked up the submarine entering the Indian Ocean Region recently.

The submarine is being accompanied by People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) submarine support vessel, CNS Chongmingdao.

Indian satellites and naval assets have picked up at least 14 PLAN warships in the IOR including the latest Luyang-III class stealth destroyers. These vessels are armed with long range surface-to-air and land attack missiles.

Indian Navy has said that it is constantly monitoring the movement of Chinese warships with the use of satellites and long range maritime surveillance platforms. The newly acquired US made Boeing P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft of the Indian Navy have been monitoring movements of the Chinese submarines closely from the sky. Indian Navy currently operates eight P-8I aircraft and has ordered four more.

The first Chinese nuclear submarine was picked up in December 2013. A Type 093 (NATO reporting name: Shang) class nuclear powered attack submarine was deployed for almost three months in the waters around India till February 2014.

China has a fleet of about 60 submarines that includes at least five nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines and four nuclear powered attack submarines capable of firing nuclear weapons. Unlike the conventional submarines, nuclear submarines have a range limited only by consumables such as food. Nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for conventional submarines. They can, therefore, be deployed for extended periods and are difficult to track.

In comparison, India has a much smaller submarine arm with an average age of about over 25 years old. This include 13 conventional attack submarines (SSK), one nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), INS Arihant and one nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN), INS Chakra leased from Russia until 2022

The India Navy will get its first new attack submarine, INS Kalvari (variant of French Scorpene-class) after a gap of almost three decades. The INS Kalvari is a a conventional diesel-electric submarine designed by DCNS and manufactured in India at Mazgaon Docks. The sub will likely join the Navy fleet in June 2017. India is also in the process to lease a second nuclear powered attack submarine from Russia.

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