Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Russian nuclear submarine to reach Indian shores in mid-March

India will become the world's sixth operator of a nuclear-powered submarine next month when Russia's K-152 Nerpa attack vessel reaches the country's shores ahead of its formal induction into the Indian Navy.


The submarine, christened INS Chakra, is expected to reach the Indian shores, with its home base as Visakhapatnam, anytime in March, according to navy officers here.

The other global naval powers operating nuclear-powered submarines are the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.

The attack submarine was handed over to the Indian Navy by Russia at a ceremony in the Far Eastern Primorye territory on Jan 23.

Codenamed Akula-II by NATO, the Project 971 Shchuka-B class vessel will be on a 10-year lease with the Indian Navy till 2022 under a contract worth over $900 million signed in mid-1990.

Under the deal, Russia trained Indian submariners on operating the Nerpa for over a month in the Pacific Ocean ahead of its handing over.

With a displacement of over 8,000 tonnes, the vessel can touch a maximum speed of 30 knots and can operate at a maximum depth of 600 meters.

The vessel can lurk in the deep sea without having to surface for 100 days waiting for its prey to appear and to strike hard at will.

Manned by a 73-member crew, the vessel is armed with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes.

The Indian Navy operated a nuclear-powered submarine 1987-1991 when it had a Soviet-origin Charlie class vessel, also named INS Chakra, in its fleet. The submarine was returned to Russia after the three-year lease ended.

Nuclear-powered submarines, being silent killers, are considered key weapon platforms in view of the surprise element in case of an attack. They are an important part of India's nuclear doctrine, as these can help in completing the nuclear-weapon triad or the capability to fire nuclear arsenal from platforms over the land, air, and under the sea.

Though Nerpa was originally scheduled to join the Indian Navy in 2009, an unexpected on-board explosion in November 2008 when it was undergoing sea trials in the Western Pacific by the Russian Navy sailors resulted in the death of 20-odd personnel due to a toxic gas release.

India will add another nuclear-powered vessel to its submarine fleet in the next six to 10 months when the indigenously built INS Arihant that is undergoing trials joins the fleet.

Two more Arihant-class submarines, with miniaturised nuclear reactors designed and developed with Russian help, will join the naval fleet in the next four years.

India currently operates 14 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Of them, 10 are Russian-origin Kilo class vessels and four are German HDW vessels.