New Delhi: India is said to have signed up for leasing a second nuclear-powered submarine from Russia, sending out a message with far-reaching significance on their strategic ties, despite the coziness that Washington now enjoys with New Delhi in the last 15 years. The cost of the lease or the duration is not known yet.
The Project 971 Shchuka-B submarine (NATO classification is Akula-class) will add to India’s existing Russian-built submarine of the same class formerly called K-152 Nerpa that was leased for close to $1 billion in 2011 after long negotiations. Indian Navy currently operates this submarine as INS Chakra, commissioning it in April 2012.
India has a previous experience in operating a nuclear-powered submarine (or called SSN in naval parlance) between 1988 and 1992, when it had leased the Project 670 Skat-class (NATO classification Charlie-class) boat K-43.
“According to a source in the Russian defense industry, the long discussed lease to transfer a multipurpose Project 971 nuclear submarine to India from the Russian Navy was signed in Goa,” wrote Russian publication ‘Vedomosti‘ columnist Alexei Nikolsky. The Russian Navy will transfer the second submarine after it has been repaired and modernised.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a summit meeting in Goa making use of the BRICS summit hosted there by New Delhi on October 15 when they had announced the inking of at least three key defence deals cumulatively worth over $10 billion, including the much-awaited S-400 Triumf (NATO classification SA-21 Growler).
The report claimed that India had not wanted a second Akula-class submarine and had instead focused on the more advanced Project 885 Yasen-class boat. But Russia currently has only one of those pricier new submarines called ‘K-560 Severodvinsk‘ in service and the rest seven are still under construction. Hence, India had to settle for a second Akula-class boat, as it wasn’t willing to wait any longer for the Yasen-class vessel.
Russia has previously helped India in developing its own nuclear-armed submarine (or SSBN), christened INS Arihant, reportedly commissioned quietly into the Strategic Forces Command on August 25 this year. There is no official announcement on the Arihant commissioning from the Narendra Modi government yet.
Kremlin-owned Sputnik International in a report claimed that the Yasen-class submarine leasing would help India in building its own project for building six new SSNs, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security in February 2015, but without saying where it got this information.
India now has considerable experience in operating the 8,140-ton Akula-class submarine. Though not the latest nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, Akula-2 is still considered advanced and of contemporary technology. It cal sail at maximum speeds of 35 knots or 65 kilo metre per hour and is said to be among the quietest Russian-built vessel.
The Akula-class can be armed with torpedoes and cruise missiles that can strike at enemy warships, submarines and coast. Being nuclear-powered with a 190 MW plant, the vessel has an unlimited range of operations, though its compulsion to surface is for replenishments and stocking of supplies for the crew.
Similar to INS Chakra, the second Akula-class vessel too would have Visakhapatnam as its home base, where India has facilities for maintenance and construction of an SSNs or an SSBN (which is the naval acronym for a vessel carrying submarine-launched ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads).