Indian warships and aircraft are continuing to scour the seas off the country’s southeastern coast in search of four sailors who went missing after a torpedo recovery vessel sank on Thursday evening claiming the life of one sailor.
A navy official said the A 72 vessel, that is over 30 years old, sank while on a mission to “recover practice torpedoes fired by fleet ships during a routine exercise, when she experienced flooding in one of her compartments”.
Soon after the incident, navy ships rescued 23 of the 28 sailors on board, he said.
“Nine ships and some aircraft have been deployed to look for” the missing sailors,” the official said.
Despite the increased focus on safety, India’s armed forces, particularly the navy, have been hit by a series of accidents recently, some of them deadly.
In March, a naval commander died during a gas leak in destroyer that was under-construction in a shipyard in Mumbai.
On Feb. 26, after a fire on INS Sindhuratna—a Soviet-built submarine–left two submariners dead, India’s naval chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi, resigned taking “moral responsibility” for a series of fatal naval accidents under his watch.
The most devastating took place in August last year when 18 sailors died after explosions and a fire rocked a Russian-built sub, INS Sindhurakshak, in a Mumbai dockyard.
The incidents cast a shadow over the South Asian country’s efforts to modernize its military mainly by replacing Soviet-era equipment.
Prompted in part by the rapid modernization of the Chinese navy and buildup of China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is increasing its focus on maritime security.
In November last year, India commissioned its second aircraft carrier—the Russia-built INS Vikramaditya—formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov.
This year in August, the navy commissioned INS Kamorta—the first of four indigenously built stealth anti-submarine warships, as well as INS Kolkata—the first of three new guided missile destroyers ordered by the navy.
The navy is also adding new planes, aircraft and helicopters, while the army and air force are bulking up their fleet of aircraft, tanks, missile batteries and artillery guns.