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S 55 Sindhu Ghosh Class
Sov Kilo

An explosion resulting in a major fire took place on board INS Sindhurakshak, a Kilo class submarine of the Indian Navy, shortly after midnight on 14 August 2013. Fire tenders from the Naval Dockyard as well as the Mumbai Fire Brigade were immediately pressed into action. However, due to the damage suffered as a result of the explosion, the submarine had submerged at her berth with only a portion visible above the surface.

The 18 persons on board the submarine at the time of the accident were killed. Nearly 16 hours after submarine INS SINDHURAKSHAK caught fire at naval dockyard in Mumbai, divers were able to enter the submarine. The diesel-powered, Russian-built submarine INS Sindhurakshak, was inducted into the navy earlier this year after undergoing a two-and-one-half-year, $80 million upgrade in Russia. It had suffered an accident before it went for a retrofit: in 2010 one sailor was killed on the vessel, apparently due to a hydrogen leak. The explosion left the submarine unable to return to full operational capability.

Four years after an accident and resultant operational issues, the Indian Navy sank the Russian-built Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak in June 2017. the US-based Resolve Marine Group had salvaged INS Sindhurakshak. The submarine's resting point is 3,000 meters below the surface.

A total of ten diesel-powered 'Project 877' submarines, known in India as the the EKM or Sindhu class, have been built under a contract between Rosvooruzhenie and the Indian Defense Ministry. They have a displacement of 3,000 tons, a maximum diving depth of 300 meters, speed of up to 18 knots, and is able to operate solo for 45 days with a crew of 53. These submarines have been criticized in India as being highly underpowered for a conventional boat. The first Kilo-class submarines of project 877 were built in the USSR in 1979.

In January 1988, the Navy sought to add one 'K' class submarine to their fleet and while processing the case for Government sanction, suggested that plan for acquisition of more 'S' class submarines should be dropped as the 'K' class was superior. Accordingly, the proposal was accepted in March 1988 and one 'K' class submarine was imported at a cost of Rs 120.26 crore and commissioned in December 1990.

It was, however, noticed in audit that opinion of the Navy about the superiority of 'K' class submarines was not based on an actual assessment of combat capability of the submarines. Even at the time of submitting the proposal in January 1988 to augment the 'K' class fleet of submarines, a full comparison of the capabilities of 'S' and 'K' class had not been carried out although both the classes were available with the Navy for a considerable time. When this exercise was completed in 1988, the Navy realised that 'K' class was a highly under-powered vessel although it had excellent sonar capability, modem long range torpedoes and a superior hull design. As a result, the vessel was later assessed to be inferior in combat capability but no attempt was made to forestall procurement of the 'K' class vessel which was already processed.

Instead, in 1992, the Navy ambitiously proposed upgradation and modernisation of the 'K' class submarines in a phased manner at a cost of Rs 4000 crore. It is curious to note that the proposed cost of upgradation was nearly 500 per cent of the cost of acquisition. No justification has been provided by the Navy as to why an inferior class of submarines should be procured in the first place, which requires upgradation at an exorbitant cost. So far this proposal had not been acceded to, but the Ministry had provided Rs 1.50 crore between July 1994 and February 1996 to improve the habitability and performance of certain equipment on board of this class of submarines.

The Indian Navy ordered two Kilo Class submarines from Russia in 1997. The first submarine, the Sindhurakshak, was commissioned in Dec 1997 at St. Petersburg, Russia and was of the Type 877 EKM design. The second submarine the Sindhushastra was also commissioned in St. Petersburg, but in July 2000, but is believed to be of the Type 636 design.

The Sindhuvir, which was originally commissioned in 1988, underwent a mid-life refit from June 1997 thru April 1999. The Sindhukesari and the Sindhura returned to Mumbai in 2002 after their mid-life refits were completed in Russia. INS Sindhukesari, one of the frontline submarines of Indian Navy, returned to Mumbai after completing a major refit and modernisation package in Russia. This modern submarine with enhanced sensor capabilities and extended weapon ranges is a vital element of Indian maritime force adding teeth to silent underwater service. The Sindhuratna began its refit in 2000 and returned to India in Summer 2002. Sindhugosh underwent her refit in Vizag from 1997 to 2000.

Sindhushastra, the tenth and final unit, delivered to India in 2000, was the first to be equipped with the Klab ZM-54E [SS-N-27] antiship cruise missiles with a range of 220 km. Following retro-fits, at least five and possibly six of the Indian Kilo contingent will be equipped with the 3M-53E Klub-S antiship missiles, which India plans to modify for land-attack missions.

Government has an approved submarine building plan which is being progressed. Further, a proposal for extending the service life of six submarines is also being examined.

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