Moscow: The Indian Navy may receive a substantial fillip to its blue water capabilities with the induction of a Shchuka B (NATO reporting name: Akula) class Russian nuclear submarine next year. If at all the transfer should take place, then the Navy will find itself equipped with one of the quietest, and also one of the most lethal, underwater machines currently in the arsenal of any nation.
The addition of the Shchuka B will also mark the return of a nuclear power-equipped vessel in the inventory of the Navy after a gap of 17 years. The last time the Navy fielded a nuclear powered vessel was when it leased a Charlie class nuclear submarine from the Russians and operated it for a number of years as the INS Chakra. The new Akula class sub, which India will lease for a period of 10 years, will carry the same name.
According to reports, factory trials of the multi-role Akula, commenced on 11 June at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard and will be followed by sea trials. It is due for delivery by September 2009. INS Chakra will operate in tandem with the indigenously built platform, the Advanced Technology Vessel. This is a 6,000 tonne nuclear powered, guided missile attack submarine.
Three Indian naval crews for the nuclear submarine have already been trained at the specially set up training centre in Sosnovy Bor near St. Petersburg. India has financed the completion of construction of project 971 Shchuka B under the $650 million deal signed in 2004 as part of the larger Adm Gorshkov package.
It is not clear what the costs of the lease are going to be.
Project 971 Shchuka-B, meaning pike, is a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) first deployed by the Soviet Navy in 1986. The NATO reporting name Akula (shark) is the Soviet designation for the ballistic missile submarine class designated by NATO as the Typhoon class.
Akula incorporates a double hull system that increases the strength reserve and is able to dive deeper than any other modern SSN.