India is acquiring a second Akula 2 nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia at a cost reported to be close to $2 billion (Rs13,370 crore).
The contract for the submarine, which was not announced earlier, was finalised in Goa along with a slew of other defence deals worth more than $5 billion which have been made public.
According to Alexei Nikolski, a columnist with the reputed Russian daily Vedomosti, "According to a source in the Russian defence industry, the long discussed lease to transfer a multipurpose Project 971 nuclear submarine to India from the Russian Navy was signed in Goa."
The Indian Navy already operates an Akula 2 class nuclear submarine, INS Chakra (formerly known as K-152 Nerpa), which was leased from Russia and commissioned on 4 April 2012 after India paid for its completion and sea-trials.
The lease of the 8,140 ton submarine was signed for a period of 10 years and with the lease set to expire in a few years, the Indian Navy has been keen acquire a second Russian nuclear submarine.
For the last several months, there have been reports that the Indian Navy was keen on leasing the much more advanced Project 885 Yasen Class nuclear attack submarine, the newest class of submarine to enter Russia's arsenal.
However, so far only one submarine of the Yasen class, the Severodvinsk, has entered service with the Russian Navy with construction of the seven remaining submarines of the class progressing slowly. Unable to wait indefinitely for a new-build Yasen, the Indian Navy has gone ahead and signed up for a second Russian Akula 2, a submarine which it now has considerable experience in operating.
The Akula 2 class submarine, while not the latest class of nuclear powered fast attack submarine in the world, is still considered one of the most advanced. Capable of sailing at speeds of up to 35 knots (nearly 65 km per hour) under water, the Akula 2 is among the quietest submarines to have been built by Russia, a defining feature of the boat which makes tracking it underwater very difficult.
Armed with torpedoes and cruise missiles (should India choose to install them), the submarine can strike enemy ships, submarines and also targets on the land. Like most other nuclear powered submarines, its range of operations is essentially unlimited since its 190 Megawatt nuclear power plant is unlikely to need refuelling during the course of the life of the submarine. In practical terms, however, operational deployments of nuclear submarines are limited by the amount of food which can be carried on board for its crew and the mechanical reliability of its installed systems.
Like the INS Chakra, the second Akula 2 submarine being leased from Russia is likely to be based in Visakhapatnam and would have two roles – firstly, defending India's fleet of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, the first of which, Arihant, is at an advanced stage of weapons-testing (See: Indigenous nuclear sub 'Arihant' quietly commissioned: reports), and secondly, to track Chinese nuclear powered attack submarines which are increasingly frequent visitors to the Indian Ocean where they are regularly deployment as part of what the Chinese say are anti-piracy missions. Asked for details on the acquisition of a second Akula 2 class submarine, a defence ministry spokesperson told NDTV, "The subject does not come within our domain. Therefore we have no comments."