Moscow: A Russian shipyard has said it expects to deliver a Schucka-B (NATO: Akula-II) class nuclear-powered attack submarine to the Indian Navy by the end of the year. The shipyard said it had repaired the damage caused by a mishap onboard the submarine during sea trials in November 2008.
The mishap resulted in 20 sailors and technical staff losing their lives.
"The repairs are complete and the vessel is technically ready for the resumption of sea trials," an official of the Amur Shipyard was quoted as saying by Interfax.
According to the director of the shipyard Nikolai Povzyk the "aim is to deliver the vessel by the end of this year."
"We are completing the enrolment of trial team, which will have to finish trials and deliver the submarine to the Indian side by the end of this year," Povzyk said.
Meanwhile, Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has announced plans to provide funds to the Amur Shipyard which will enable it to complete the Indian order. He did not specify details.
The Schucka-B/Akula-II class nuclear attack submarine was to be delivered to the Indian Navy on a 10-year lease in June last year. However, this was put off after a mishap onboard the submarine occurred during sea trials when a crew member is believed to have entered the wrong data into the temperature sensor. This activated the fire safety system to release Freon gas into the living quarters killing 20 sailors and technical staff.
The submarine's reactor was not affected by the accident, which took place in the fore section of the submarine, and radiation levels remained normal.
On 11 February 2009 an Indian team visited the shipyard and inspected the submarine and also held discussions with experts.
It is not clear whether this is submarine is the only one taken on a lease\purchase agreement with the Russia or part of a pair contracted for by the Indian Navy. The 'Nerpa' was 75-80% complete in 2005 when the contract was firmed up by both the sides, with its construction abandoned after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The other 'Kaban' was 40-60% complete.
It is also not clear whether the submarines are part of a lease agreement, as with the earlier Charlie-II Class (INS Chakra) submarine which was returned to the Soviet Union after expiry of its lease period, or if India retains the option to buy the submarine upon expiry of the lease agreement. The new Schucka-B submarine is also expected to be named as INS Chakra.
As with a host of Russian defence projects and establishments it is money advanced by India which has allowed defence projects to be completed and Russian defence construction establishments to acquire a new lease of life.
These agreements have, over the last few years, become a source of great rancour between both the countries as cost overruns and quality considerations have delayed projects and soured relations between respective defence establishments.