Indian Interests on Sea Trials of Russian Akula II Class Nuclear Submarine

by OldSailor on October 28, 2008

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Russian Akula II Class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine has commenced sea trials at Primorye Territory in southeastern Russia. Sea trials of this submarine is a significant development for the Indian Navy because,Akula_sub1

  • As per media reports the submarine is expected to join the Indian Navy on 10 years lease in mid 2009 with an option to buy at the end of the leasing, though the Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has denied this report.
  • The Akula class submarine on lease is necessary for the Indian Navy to prepare for the induction of the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), India’s indigenous nuclear powered submarine which is expected to go for sea trials in 2009.
  • As India has already tested undersea launch of nuclear capable missile in February, Indian Navy has to accelerate the realization of ATV project.
  • Further, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has already pointed out that the operational availability of Indian submarines is as low as 48% due to an ageing fleet and prolonged refit schedules.
  • In the past India leased a Charlie I class nuclear submarine from the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991.

Akula II class submarine is considered to be the quietest and deadliest of Russian nuclear powered attack submarines.

Some of the interesting features of Akula II Class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine are:

  • Construction started in 1991 at Amur shipyard in Komsomolsk-on-Amur of far east Russia.Akula_sub2
  • Construction was suspended for more than a decade due to lack of funds and India has reportedly financed the completion of construction of this submarine under the $650 million deal signed in 2004 as part of the larger Adm Gorshkov package though the cost of the lease is not revealed.
  • Crew of Indian Navy for the nuclear submarine have already been trained at the specially set up training centre in Sosnovy Bor near St. Petersburg.
  • The submarine will not be equipped with Russian long-range cruise missiles due to international restrictions on missile technology proliferation and India is expected to arm with indigenous long-range nuclear-capable missiles.
  • Fitted with more sophisticated navigation, sonar and hydraulic systems.
  • The submarine is capable of maximum submerged speed of 33 knots and a surface speed of 10 knots.
  • The submarine has a reserve propeller system, powered by two motors rated at 370kW, to provide a speed of 3 to 4 knots.
  • The submarine is rated for a diving depth of 600 metres.

Read more about Akula II Class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine from Wikipedia, Naval-Technology.

Read more about sea trials of Akula II submarine from RIA Novosti.

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Update: November 01

Indian Navy personnel are getting ready to leave in small batches for OJT (On the Job Training) on Akula II. Read more from India Today.

Update: November 02

The Akula-II nuclear powered submarine on lease from Russia is expected to be commissioned as INS Chakra in the Indian Navy on August 15, 2009. Before that, the first of the three indigenous nuclear powered  submarines from ATV project is expected to begin sea trials on January 26, 2009. Read more from Thaindian News.

Update: November 09

It is reported that during the sea trials of Akula II Nerpa submarine, minimum 20 personnel onboard were killed and around 20 were injured due to accidental activation of the fire-extinguishing system. During the accident the submarine had around 208 men onboard including shipyard workers.

Though RIA Novosti has not revealed the name of the submarine, Russian Navy Blog, BBC and Reuters believe that the accident has occured in Akula II Nerpa. It is not clear whether some Indian crew were onboard during the accident. It is further reported that the submarine’s reactor is safe and a Russian destroyer, the Admiral Tributs is carrying out  necessary rescue operations.

RIO Novosti in its later report, indicates that the deaths were in submarine Akula II Nerpa.

More information is at Russian Navy Blog regarding the accident.

Also here is a video clip on the accident from Russia Today.

Update: November 10

There is no damage to the submarine and she has returned to Bolshoi Kamen, a military shipyard and a navy base near Vladivostok under own power. Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to a destroyer that brought them to shore.

It is further reported that the submarine submerged for the first time only last week. Read more from Shanghai Daily.

Now The Hindu confirms that accident has happened in Akula II Nerpa which was to join on lease to India as INS Chakra by mid 2009.

Though further sea trials are suspended temporarily, delivery to India may not be delayed as there is no physical damage to the submarine.

Here BBC gives a graphical presentation of the accident.

Here is an article from RIA Novosti on fire extinguishing systems available on Russian submarines to know more about the accident.

Update: November 11

Here are some technical specifications available on Akula II Nerpa.

  • Speed
    • 20 knots on surface
    • 35 knots while submerged
  • Test depth: 450 metres
  • Crush depth: 600 – 660 metres (calculated)
  • Cruising capacity: 100 days
  • Displacement
    • 8,140 tons on surface
    • 12,770 tons while submerged
  • Length: 110.3 metres
  • Crew: 73 submariners(31 Officers)
  • Cost: $ 785 million as on 2007

View graphical presentation on accident at RIA Novosti.

The accidental deaths might have been due to unauthorized smoking that triggered activation of the fire-extinguishing system in Akula II. The Times of India gives some details.

Update: November 12

A source in the investigation commission says that the fire safety system that was thought to have malfunctioned and caused the deaths of 20 people on board nuclear submarine Akula II Nerpa was in order. Further investigations are going on to find out the cause of the accident. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Here is an update from Russian Navy Blog on the fire fighting system used in Akula II Nerpa.

Here is survivors recall of the accident from Space War. Also read about openness and secrecy about the accident.

Update: November 13

It seems that the cause of the accident has been found out. RIA Novosti reports that a crew member activated without permission the fire safety system on board the Russian nuclear submarine Nerpa, causing the deaths of 20 people. The crew has already confessed and criminal charges have already been brought against the crew member, and he faces up to seven years in jail. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: November 14

The possibility of the presence of Indian Navy personnel on board Akula II Nerpa during sea trials can not be ruled out as Indian Navy personnel are already there in Russia monitoring the submarine project — both during its construction phase and now during the sea trial phase. Read more from The Times of India.

Update: November 17

It is now reported that crew member Dmitry Grobov is suspected of having entered the wrong temperature data into a temperature sensor for the submarine’s living quarters, which caused the fire safety system to release Freon gas. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: November 22

Russian defence experts say that Akula II Nerpa deal with India is still on, only the delivery may get delayed by some months due to the recent accident due to fire extinguishing system. Read more fom The Hindu.

Update: February 12, 2009

An Indian delegation on two-day visit to the Vostok dockyard, have inspected the Akula II Nerpa submarine that had an accident in November 2008. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: May 13

New sea trials of the Akula II Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine, which was damaged in a fatal accident during previous tests, will be conducted on June 15-20. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: May 14

Akula II Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine is expected to be delivered to India by this year end after sea trials. Read more from Indian Express.

Update: July 10

Sea trials of 12,000-ton K-152 Nerpa, Akula II class nuclear-powered attack submarine commenced on July 10 in the Sea of Japan. The trials are expected to continue for two weeks. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: July 29

First phase of sea trials of K-152 Nerpa, the Akula II class submarine completed successfully on July 27.  Read more from RIA Novosti.

View colourful graphics of K-152 Nerpa, from Infographics – RIA Novosti.

Update: August 01

The second phase of sea trials commenced on July 31. The sea trials are expected to go on for two weeks. Read more from RIA Novosti.

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