Russia lessons for sub team

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By SUJAN DUTTA in Delhi
  • Published 10.08.08
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New Delhi, Aug. 10: Three teams of naval personnel are being trained in Russia to man the first of two nuclear-powered attack submarines that India has leased from that country. The Indian Navy expects to induct the submarine in 2009, senior officials have confirmed.

India contracted the Akula-II class submarines in 2004 but the cost of the lease and the delivery schedule was not made public. The lease is for 10 years.

The lease of the submarines — the second time that India will take a Russian nuclear submarine in its fleet temporarily — is linked to other major weapons and platform-acquisition programmes that are being executed with Russia, including aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The Gorshkov schedule has gone awry.

“After delays, the Akula will come for crew training sometime next year,” navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said.

Training on the Akula is important for the navy because it is preparing to induct an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine around 2011. The project — called the Advanced Technology Vessel by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — is also behind schedule.

The first of the Akula submarines is likely to be re-christened INS Chakra, after the first nuclear submarine the navy had leased in 1988 and returned to Russia in 1991. Since the indigenous nuclear submarine project slipped on schedule, the capability the navy had acquired to man a nuclear submarine was wasted. Almost all the crew trained on the first INS Chakra has retired.

India is also in the process of acquiring six conventional diesel-electric submarines (the Scorpene) made by DCN Thales under a contract signed in 2005. Part of the contract is being executed at the Mazagon docks in Mumbai. A follow-on order for six more Scorpenes is likely.

India now has a fleet of 16 submarines of Russian and German origins but the number is likely to dwindle rapidly with the vessels being stretched beyond their projected life cycles.

The submarine-acquisition programme is of a pattern with the navies of the Indian Ocean region, chiefly Pakistan and China, which have strengthened their capabilities.