Thursday, 4 July 2013

India may take a third Russian nuclear attack submarine on lease

India has expressed interest in leasing another nuclear attack submarine from Russia to supplement the Akula class hunter-killer that was inducted last year. The two sides are now ready to start negotiations on the project, according to the head of the top Russian design bureau for nuclear submarines.

Tentatively christened INS Chakra III, the new submarine will be a variant of the Akula class of stealthy nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of spending months under water.

It is likely to be equipped with more lethal weaponry, including a vertically launched Brahmos missile system.

If the project goes through, this will be the third Russian nuclear submarine to be operated by India. The first was the original INS Chakra that was taken on a three-year lease in 1988. The second was inducted last year after a four-year delay. It too has been named the INS Chakra.

Vladimir Dorofeev, head of the Malachite Design Bureau, which is the main centre for nuclear attack submarines in Russia, has said that the negotiations that India and Russia did during the 2012 lease of the Chakra will help in a smooth process for the acquisition of the new submarine.

India has expressed an interest in acquiring the submarine and both the Russian design bureau and the shipyard that will construct it are ready for negotiations, The Indian Express quoted him today as saying in St Petersburg.

The submarine is likely to be reconstructed round the hull of the Iribis, a Russian Akula class submarine that was never completed as funds ran dry after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dorofeev said that the new submarine could also benefit from the design efforts that Russia had put in its latest class of Yasen nuclear-powered attack submarines.

"The fourth generation of Yasen class submarine has been tested successfully, including the firing of a cruise missile from the submerged vessel. We can use that experience for the second Indian submarine. The launch was done using a new vertical launch system that can be used for the next submarine," Dorofeev said.

The universal launch system that has been tested can launch several types of missiles from a submerged vessel and can carry four to five missiles per salvo. However, the design bureau head refused to go into details of the project, saying that technical requirements for the next submarine will be discussed after India comes up with a set of technical requirements.

"If a political decision is taken then we as an industry should have no difficulty in delivering what is agreed to," he said. He expressed confidence that the matter will be discussed in future talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who meet once a year for top level confabulations.

He, however, refused to comment on Russian assistance for the indigenous INS Arihant class of submarines that India is constructing in Vizag (Andhra Pradesh). Joint cooperation or technology sharing would depend on political negotiations between the two nations, he said.

In April 2012, the Eastern Fleet that is tasked with patrolling some of the most sensitive waters around India, formally inducted the INS Chakra, a stealthy nuclear-powered submarine acquired from Russia on a 10-year lease.

The Akula II class submarine — renowned as one of the stealthiest in the world is an attack submarine — is nuclear-powered but does not carry nuclear missiles on board.

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