Indian Navy earns dubious record of being the most accident prone naval force in the world.
An article in India Today reported that since 1990, the Indian Navy has lost one warship in peacetime every five years. Since 2004, it has lost one naval combatant every two years. While peacetime losses of warships are not uncommon, the magazine mentioned that few global navies have such a dubious record.
2000 – 2010
December 2005: INS Trishul, a Talwar-class frigate, collided with a commercial vessel, Ambuja Laxmi, outside the Mumbai harbour, while returning from a training mission. This class of ship uses stealth technology and a special hull design to ensure a reduced radar cross section. Radar systems installed by the port authorities and those on board Ambuja Laxmi were unable to detect INS Trishul and prevent the side on collision. No casualties were reported.
April 2006: INS Prahar, a Veer-class corvette, sank after colliding with MV Rajiv Gandhi about 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) away from the Goa coast. No casualties were reported. The commanding officer of the ship, Lieutenant Commander Yogesh Tripathi was found guilty of negligence by an Indian Navy court-martial and dismissed from service.
September 2006: INS Dunagiri, a Nilgiri-class frigate, collided with a Shipping Corporation of India merchant vessel, MV Kiti, off the coast of Mumbai. There were no casualties, but the Dunagiri suffered damage and required extensive repairs.
January 2008: INS Sindhughosh, a Kilo-class submarine, collided with a foreign merchant vessel MV Leeds Castle while trying to surface in waters north of Mumbai. The submarine was taking part in fleet-level war games, when the accident occurred. The Navy termed it a minor incident with no casualties reported.
February 2008: Five crew were killed and three critically injured due to exposure to hydrogen sulphide aboard INS Jalashwa, a landing platform dock. The ship was taking part in exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
August 2009: A collision of the missile corvette INS Kuthar with destroyer INS Ranvir in the Bay of Bengal was traced to a rudder failure, compounded by a flawed manoeuvre.
2010 – Present
In 2010, three crew members on destroyer INS Mumbai were instantly killed when an AK-630 Close-in weapon system went off as safety drills were not followed.
January 2011: INS Vindhyagiri, a Nilgiri-class frigate, capsized after a collision with a Cyprus-flagged merchant vessel MV Nordlake near the Sunk Rock light house, following which a major fire broke out in the ship’s engine and boiler room. Everyone on board was evacuated as soon as the fire broke out and hence there were no casualties. INS Vindhyagiri was later decommissioned.
August 2013: Blasts ripped through the torpedo compartment of the submarine INS Sindhurakshak while it was berthed at the naval dockyard off the Mumbai coast. Fifteen sailors and three officers were killed. Other sources state that a small explosion occurred around midnight which then triggered the two larger explosions. The disaster was thought to be the Indian navy’s worst since the sinking of the frigate INS Khukri by a Pakistani submarine during the 1971 war.
December 2013: INS Konkan, a Pondicherry-class minesweeper under the Eastern Naval Command, caught fire at the naval dockyard at Visakhapatnam while undergoing repairs. The fire engulfed much of the ship’s interior before it was extinguished. No casualties were reported.
December 2013: In the second incident in the same month, INS Talwar, the lead ship of the Talwar-class frigates of the Indian Navy, collided with a fishing trawler injuring four of the 27 people on board the trawler and sinking it. The fishing trawler was operating without lights. The captain of the ship was subsequently stripped of command.
December 2013: In the third incident in the same month, INS Tarkash, again a Talwar-class frigate, suffered damage to its hull when it hit the jetty while docking at the Mumbai naval base. The navy ordered a board of inquiry.
January 2014: INS Betwa, a Brahmaputra-class guided missile frigate, ran aground and collided with an unidentified object while approaching the Mumbai naval base. The sonar system of the frigate was cracked, leading to faulty readings and an ingress of salt-water into sensitive equipment.
January 2014: In the second incident in the same month, INS Vipul, a Veer-class corvette of the elite 22nd Killer Missile Vessel Squadron, was detected with a hole in its pillar compartment which forced the ship back into the harbour while it was on an operational deployment.
February 2014: On 3 February, INS Airavat, a Shardul-class amphibious warfare vessel, ran aground while returning to its home base at Visakhapatnam, causing slight damage to its propellers. Following the incident, its commanding officer, Captain JPS Virk, was relieved of command pending the findings of a Board of Inquiry.
February 2014: On 26 February, INS Sindhuratna, a Kilo-class submarine, had a fire detected on board when trials were being conducted which resulted in smoke leading to suffocation and death of two officers. Seven sailors were reported injured and were airlifted to the naval base hospital in Mumbai. According to the naval board of inquiry, the fire was caused due to problems in the cables of the vessel. This particular incident led to the resignation of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral D K Joshi on 26 February 2014, who owned moral responsibility for the incidents in the past few months.
March 2014: INS Kolkata had a malfunction on board which led to a toxic gas leak killing Commander Kuntal Wadhwa instantly. According to the Indian Navy, the ship suffered a malfunction in its carbon dioxide unit while undergoing machinery trials, leading to gas leakage. Since the ship was not commissioned at the time of the incident, the enquiry into the mishap will be done by Mazagon Dock Limited, where the ship was constructed.
May 2014: INS Ganga suffered a minor explosion in the boiler room while undergoing a refit at the Mumbai dockyard. Four people suffered minor injuries. There was no fire and no equipment was damaged.
November 2014: A torpedo recovery vessel of the Astravahini class A-73 sank 30 nautical miles (56 km; 35 mi) off the Vizag coast during a routine mission to recover torpedoes fired by fleet ships during a routine exercise. The accident resulted in the death of one sailor while four others were reported as missing however 23 other personnel were rescued by SAR teams deployed right after the incident.
March 2015: A Dornier Do 228 aircraft belonging to the Indian Navy Aviation Squadron 310, on a routine training mission, lost radar contact and ditched at sea about 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) southwest of Goa on the night of 24 March 2015. The aircrew on board the aircraft comprised three officers (two pilots and one female observer). The lone survivor, Commander Nikhil Kuldip Joshi, was picked up by a passing fishing boat. The bodies of the other two officers Lieutenant Abhinav Nagori and Lieutenant Kiran Shekhawat were recovered. Media reports suggested that the female observer could be the first woman in India’s military to die in active service. Meanwhile, a Board of Inquiry was ordered to establish the cause of the accident.
November 2015: INS Kochi, a Kolkata-class destroyer, conducted BrahMos missile test firings whilst the airspace remained open to traffic, due to a communication failure.
March 2016: A fire broke out on the soon-to-be decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat which resulted in the death of one and the injury of three others
April 2016: A sailor lost his leg while two others were injured in an oxygen cylinder explosion on board INS Nireekshak. The explosion took place on 16 April while a diving bailout bottle, a small 12-inch (30 cm) oxygen bottle that is carried by divers in their diving helmet, was being charged. The sailors were admitted in the Military Hospital, Trivandrum as the ship was on it way to Mumbai from Visakhapatnam.
June 2016: Two people, a sailor and a civilian contractor, were killed by a toxic gas leak that occurred during maintenance work in the Sewage Treatment Plant compartment during the first refit of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya at Karwar. Two other people were injured and taken to the naval hospital.
August 2016: A minor fire broke out at INS Dega after a MiG-29K accidentally jettisoned one of its drop tanks.
October 2016: Sub Lieutenant Tejveer Singh died on October 11, 2016 onboard INS Kuthar after he accidentally fired his 9mm pistol. He was shifted to Naval Hospital INHS Kalyani in Visakhapatnam where he succumbed to his injuries.
November 2016: The front portion of INS Nashak was damaged when its GT engines failed in Mumbai harbour and it collided with a jetty on 18 November.
December 2016: Two sailors died and 14 others were injured when INS Betwa tipped over and crashed on its side while it was undocking in Mumbai on 6 December. The main mast of the ship broke when it tipped over due to a failure in the dock block mechanism. The ship was being undocked after undergoing a mid-life refit.
January 2017: A minor fire broke out at 11.40am on 10 January in the Gyro compartment of INS Pralay during welding work at Mumbai naval dockyard. The fire was extinguished by the ship’s staff and the Naval Dockyard fire station and no one was injured during the incident.
February 2017: A minor fire broke out on 1 February 2017 in the left engine room of INS Kamorta when it was operating at sea. The room was immediately evacuated and the fire put out using the ship’s Fixed fire system and there were no injuries during the incident.
October 2017: INS Kadmatt (P29), while stern maneuvering to the dock, collided by the stern with Russian ship Irytsh in Vladivostok on October 19 during Indra 2017. Irytsh, a naval hospital ship, suffered hull dents over the waterline. According to reports, the main reasons attributed to the collision were language problems between the Indian officers and the on-board pilot and the corvette’s commander lack of practice in making fast stern.
January 2018: A fire broke out in the store compartment aboard INS Shivalik but it was controlled in time and there was no major damage or casualties.
July 2018: A fire broke out at the Gyro compartment of the INS Pralaya (K91) but no one suffered any injuries.
April 2019: A fire broke out in the engine room of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya which claimed the life of a naval officer.
Track records bear witness to the sheer incompetence of the Indian Navy. Whilst other navies take steps to arrest any rise in accidents it becomes worse each passing year for a naval force that is supposed to maintain the utmost state of operational preparedness with lofty dreams of countering the Chinese Navy (PLAN). With such a horrific history of accidents the Indian Navy’s operational success against similar sized navies remain questionable. Moreover in the case of the Chinese Navy, their indigenous naval shipbuilding capability’s rapid pace illustrates the Indian Navy will find it incredibly difficult to match.