India to lease Russian nuclear submarine for 10 years

16:49, March 17, 2010      

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India will soon have a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine for 10 years under an agreement signed by the two countries during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi last week, local newspaper The Times of India said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, India will get the K-152 Nerpa submarine. The lease flows from a secretive agreement inked between New Delhi and Moscow in January 2004, with India funding part of Nerpa's construction at Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard in Russia with an initial 650 million U.S. dollars, said the newspaper.

Nerpa was to be inducted in the Indian Navy as INS Chakra by mid-2008 but technical glitches delayed the process. Then, just as it began its sea trials in November 2008, 20 sailors were killed on it due to a toxic gas leak. After repairs, Nerpa is fully- operational now.

In fact, India is dispatching a 50-member submarine crew, including eight to 10 officers, to Russia to train on the Akula-II class nuclear submarine before it gets the new nuclear submarine.

"The Indian naval team will be leaving within 15 days. They will first undergo intensive training on Nerpa and then bring it to India on the 10-year lease,"' a Defense Ministry source was quoted as saying.

The over 12,000-ton Nerpa in itself will, of course, not fulfill India's long-cherished aim to have a credible nuclear weapon triad -- the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea.

While Nerpa is nuclear-propelled, it will not come armed with its long-range nuclear-tipped missiles due to international treaties like the Missile Technology Control Regime.

But it will contribute in other ways. For one, it will train Indian sailors in the fine art of operating nuclear submarines. This will be useful when India's own nuclear submarine, the over 6, 000-ton INS Arihant, becomes operational by 2011-2012, the report said.

India now has only 16 ageing conventional submarines operating at present.

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