Project 971 Shuka-B Akula class
On 5 December 2000 India announced new negotiations with Russia to lease a nuclear-powered attack submarine. The goal was to retain the familiarization with nuclear propulsion gained during the three-year lease of the Chakra. India's interest in leasing a pair of Type 971 SSNs was based in part on the slow progress in the Advanced Technology Vessel. Reports were in conflict as to whether the submarines in question were the improved Akula or the Akula-II. As of 2000 there were a pair of both types in a state of partial completion. By 2007 the discussion of the state of completion of the vessels contemplated for lease strongly suggested that they would be the improved Akula Nerpa, laid down in 1986, and Kaban, laid down in 1992.
As of November 2001 it was reported that the the terms of lease for a single Akula II/Schuka-B class nuclear-powered submarine had been finalized in September 2001. The submarine, to be leased for three years at a price of $25 million for it, was expected to arrive in Vishakapatnam in early 2002. However, as of February 2002 the Russian submarines were slated to begin service in the Indian Navy in 2004 under a five-year lease. India was to help finance the construction of the two new Akula class boats with the proceeds allowing Russia to complete the first Type 855 SSN. At that time no agreement had been reached on the transfer of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, the proposed lease of two Akulas, or the purchase of four Tu-22M Backfire bombers.
As of mid-2002 the Indian Ministry of Defence was saying little about a move to lease-purchase two Project 971 class nuclear submarines from Russia. But negotiations were reported to be at an advanced stage and India's commitment could include providing money to enable Russia to complete construction work on the subs. The subs in question were believed at that time to be of the Project 971 improved Akula-II class.
On 20 January 2004 India finalized the purchase of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov after over a decade of negotiations. But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes did not reach agreement on other weapons, such as the Tu-22 Backfire bombers or Akula-class nuclear submarines.
By mid-2005 India appeared set to get at least two Akula class subs on lease - with the option to buy them- from Russia by end of 2005. The construction of a training center for the Indian defence officers in Sosnovy Bor, west of St Petersburg, confirmed Russia's intentions to lease nuclear submarines to India. The international center started training 300 Indian Naval officers by mid-September 2005. This number suggested 4 Akula crews (2 on, 2 off duty rotations.) The leasing/buying of Akulas would train crews and augment force levels as the ATV goes into serial production.
As of 2005, the two Akulas, one said to be 70-85% complete and the other said to be 40-60% complete, were estimated to cost India some $400m. The leasing costs would amount to some $25m a year. The construction of both submarines and training of the crews could run up to around $2 billion.
These submarines were to be manned entirely by Indian crew. In August 2005 Bellona Web reported evidence of construction of a nuclear submarine training center for the Indian Navy in Sosnovy Bor, 70 kilometers west of St. Petersburg in Russia. The training center, large enough to train 300 submariners, was built following the visit of Russian President Vladamir Putin to India in December 2004. By 2007 there were reports that nearly 300 Indian naval personnel, or three sets of crews, had trained to operate the submarine the training facility in Sosnovy Bor. These personnel were reported to have returned to India in early 2007, after completion of training.
By late 2007 the two sides were said to be set to seal an agreement for the lease of two Akula class nuclear submarines to India. This agreement was to be the high point of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow on 10 November 2007, a reminder of the heyday of the Indo-Russian relationship. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Moscow on a two-day visit, and nothing was publicly agreed. The visit was expected to envisage upgrading the predominant buyer-seller relationship between India and Russia in the defense sector to a new level of joint partnership for co-developing state-of-the-art future weaponries.
The Akulas were to be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2008 on a lease of at least seven years, and up to ten years. This acquisition was to help the Indian Navy prepare for the induction of the ATV, India's long-delayed indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, set for for sea trials in 2009. The cost to India of acquiring two Akula submarines and their support infrastructure along with training of the crews had been estimated at $2 billion. Other estimates suggested that the deal, which could be worth over Rs 2,000 crore, about $500 million to $650 million dollars.
Russia reportedly intended to use the money from the Indian lease to complete two Akula class submarines, long under construction at the Amur Shipbuilding yard. One of them [the Nerpa] was 70 to 85 percent complete, while the other one [Kaban] is 40 to 60 percent complete [other earlier reports had suggested that Kaban was only 25% complete].
The first of these two submarines was reportedly planned to be named INS Chakra. In January 1988 India had arranged a three-year transfer of a Charlie-I class nuclear attack submarine from the Soviet Union, also named Chakra. The word comes from the Sanskrit "cakra" meaning "wheel, circle", and sometimes also referring to the "wheel of life". The Indian flag is a familiar horizontal tricolor of orange, white, and green, with a blue Ashoka Chakra with 24 spokes at the center. In Hinduism and its spiritual systems of yoga a chakra is thought to be an energy node in the human body. The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The flag code of India from the official Home Ministry website of the Indian government states that "The Ashoka Wheel in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principles of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change."
The submarine was to join the Indian Navy in August 2007, then the induction was rescheduled to August 2009. Repeated deiays may be due to a large number of new systems and technologies installed onboard the Nerpa, the latest in a series of Schucka-B or Akula-I1 (NATO designation) class attack submarines built in Russia. The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991, but was suspended for over a decade due to a lack of funding. Indian media reported on various occasions that the construction of the submarine was partially financed by the Indian government. India has reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton submarine.
On 08 November 2008, while the submarine was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan, a crew member is believed to have entered the wrong data into the temperature sensor, which caused the fire safety system to release Freon gas into the living quarters killing 20 sailors. The Russian Navy said the sea trials of the submarine would continue after the investigation into the recent tragedy and certain technical adjustments were made in the fire safety system. The submarine's reactor was not affected by the accident, which took place in the nose of the submarine, and radiation levels on board remained normal.
Some blame the accident on the modifications made to the Molibden-I central command console at India’s request. There were other accidents on the Nerpa though none of them as serious the one in 2008. For example, the system started to fill and empty ballast tanks without operator's input and had to be switched off. Many of them were connected with the Molibden system, which is alarming because it is supplied to the Project 955 Borei class missile submarines.
The Russian Navy commissioned the Nerpa nuclear submarine, which was involved in a fire accident killing 20 people on board, rather than sell or lease it to India. The Chief of the General Staff of Russia, General Nikolai Makarov, said "The sum of $650-780 million, which Rosoboronexport and the Amur Shipbuilding Plant had negotiated over a long period of time with the Indian defence ministry, will now be found in Russia, either within the state weapons procurement programme or somewhere else." Nerpa will reportedly join other seven Akula class submarines in Russia's Pacific Fleet.
On 11 February 2009 an Indian team visited a dock in Russia's Far East where the Nerpa nuclear submarine has been kept since last year's fatal accident. During their two-day visit to the Vostok dockyard, the Indian delegates inspected the submarine and met with experts employed at the dock.
In late December 2009, the Russian Nerpa nuclear attack submarine, which had been damaged while undergoing sea trials in November 2009, entered service with the Russian Navy. The submarine was to be leased to the Indian Navy as the INS Chakra, for a reported $650 million for a duration of 10 years.
Russian officials had consistently denied any plans to sell India a nuclear submarine. Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis and Technologies, Russia's leading arms export think tank, ruled out the possibility of Russia pulling out of the leasing deal. In the light of the current problems with the Gorshkov aircraft carrier refit for India, cancellation of the submarine deal would deal a crushing blow to defence cooperation, Mr. Pukhov said.
The Project 971 nuclear-powered attack submarine K-152 Nerpa was delivered to the Indian Navy on 05 April 2012. But it was not the only Russian naval system to be exported to India this year. Russia and India plan to complete several other naval contracts, which could make 2012 “the year of the navy” in bilateral military technical cooperation. At any rate, the Nerpa has been commissioned and leased to India for 10 years for nearly $1 billion.
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