A PERIOD OF GROWTH
By 1973, the small submarine force had consolidated itself in the submarine base at Visakhapatnam, and the Naval Staff appreciated that the time was appropriate to embark on a plan of development of force levels. The Naval Higher Command decided to recommend to the Government that another four ‘F’ class submarines be inducted into the Service. These submarines were to be based on the West Coast, so as to disperse the Navy’s assets. Accordingly, the next four submarine – Vela, Vagir, Vagli and Vaghsheer, were acquired from the USSR and comissioned between Aug 73 and Dec 1974. These submarines, designated the ‘Vela’ class, were modernised versions of the ‘Kalvari’ class, with more capable equipment, sensors and weapons.
The acquisition of four additional submarines over a period of two years did not, of course, happen painlessly. In real terms this increase represented a hundred per cent growth of the submarine force within a very short span, and this imposed a severe strain on our resources, particularly of trained manpower. Young Leading hands found themselves as Chief Motorists or Chief Torpedists of submarines and young submarine Commanding Officers were cautioned by the Captains (S/M) to beware against dilution of standards because of inexperience. It is a matter of pride that the Submarine Arm met this challenge successfully, and much credit must go not only to those who manned the new boats, but also to those who continued to operate the older ones with depleted manpower and experience.
Thus by the end of 1974, the Submarine Arm consisted of 8 boats of the ‘Foxtrot’ class. The Arm had established itself and was fully self – sufficient in the fields of training, tactics, and maintenance. The Arm was still, however, seeking the assistance of the Soviet Union for major repairs, because of the limited capacity of our own Yards. Thus the late Seventies saw a few submarines being refitted in Soviet Union. This was also necessitated by the need for updating their weapons and equipment.
< INS Vagli loading torpedoes in harbour