Komsomolsk-On-Amur: The Indian Navy is all set to join an exclusive club of nuclear powered vessel operators with the Russian K-152 Nerpa nuclear attack submarine departing base on the Russian Pacific with a contingent of Indian sailors onboard for a comprehensive training and acceptance trial programme. The workup trials of the sophisticated third generation nuclear attack Schucka-B class (NATO: Akula II) submarine are a prelude to the vessel being handed over to the Indian Navy on a ten-year lease sometime later this year.
The vessel will be inducted into the navy as INS Chakra, carrying the same name as its predecessor, which was a Charlie class Russian submarine taken on lease in the 1980s and subsequently returned to Russia.
According to Amur shipyard officials the workup trials include a training programme for the Indian crew. It is reported that the Indian crew may number as many as 50, which would be far short of the normal complement of an Akula sub, which carries 73 personnel onboard including 30 officers.
The Akula II is a massive vessel which displaces 12,770 tonnes under water. It can stay submerged for 100 days without replenishment.
The lease contract is estimated by Russian sources to be at some $900 million. It was struck in 2004 through which India agreed to fund its construction. The Nerpa was berthed in a semi-finished condition as Russian shipyards had run out of funds to complete vessels post-collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Nerpa was scheduled to be introduced into the Indian Navy by mid-2008 but an onboard accident in November 2008, which killed a number of Russian sailors and shipyard workers, delayed the whole process as the vessel had to undergo repairs and start its trials anew.
The boat is now fully operational after extensive trials. As part of procedure the Nerpa will first be commissioned in the Russian Navy before being handed over to the Indian Navy to be commissioned as INS Chakra.