Moscow: The Russian Schucka-B class Nerpa (NATO: Akula II) nuclear attack submarine, damaged in an accident during sea trials last year, will be commissioned by the Russian Navy in the autumn and subsequently leased to the Indian Navy, Russian navy sources said Tuesday. New sea trials will be conducted on the repaired submarine on 15-20 June by the shipyard.
On 8 November last year, the Nerpa was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan when its on-board fire safety system went off releasing deadly Freon gas into the sleeping quarters. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers, from a total complement of 208 people onboard, at the time were killed.
"All the technical and organisational measures on the sub have been completed. Only pre-delivery trials by the shipyard and pre-commissioning state trials are ahead of us, which will be completed this summer (June-August). After which the submarine will be commissioned by the Russian Navy," naval sources were quoted as saying.
Last month, shipyard sources had indicated that repairs onboard the Nerpa were almost complete and that the 12,000 ton underwater behemoth would head for sea trials in June.
The yard's operations had been hamstrung by a lack of finances, but a recent visit by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who released $300 million to the shipyard with orders to deliver the submarine to India by the end of this year, resolved the issue.
According to reports, the Nerpa will go on a 10-year lease to the Indian Navy, for which Russia would be paid an annual fee of $50 million. At the end of the lease period the Indian Navy could either renew the lease or buy the submarine outright or the submarine could revert back to Russia.
It is likely that Nerpa will take on the name of a predecessor, INS Chakra, when it begins to fly the flag of the Indian Navy. The INS Chakra was a Charlie-class submarine, which was also leased out to the Indian Navy a couple of decades back.
Construction of the Nerpa began in 1991, but as with innumerable projects mothballed because of the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union, it too remained in an unfinished state for well over a decade until a $500 million advance from India allowed construction to resume.
The Schucka class subs are considered the quietest and deadliest of all Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines and dreaded by navies of advanced nations.