New Nuke Sub for India?

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Sources are reporting that India, with one Russian nuclear-propelled attack submarine (SSN) already on order, is seeking a second Project 971 submarine, given the Western code name Akula. India is the only country to have operated nuclear submarines built by another nation.

Indias first Akula SSN is under construction at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard near the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East. That submarine -- which will be leased to India -- is expected to be completed in 2009. The Akula is a torpedo-attack submarine fitted with four 533-mmm and four 650-mm torpedo tubes that can launch a variety of weapons, including anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. The first Akula entered Soviet service in 1984, introducing a new level of quieting, a 1,950-foot test depth, and other advanced SSN capabilities to the Soviet Navy.

India has publicly denied interest in nuclear submarines. However, writing in New Delhis Sunday Express, Mr. Shishir Gupta reported that leasing a second submarine was included in talks held in late August that included Indias National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and senior Russian officials visiting New Delhi, including First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and recently appointed Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

The Indian government had signed an agreement in 2004-2005 for the leasing of the first Akula SSN. The quest for a second SSN may be motivated by the highly publicized modernization of Chinese naval forces. The Chinese governments improved ties with Pakistan and Myanmar (formerly Burma) and growing Chinese importation of Middle East oil, as well as increasing Chinese involvement in East African issues, are of concern to Indias government. The SSN procurement as well as the purchase of a former Soviet aircraft carrier (the ex-Admiral Gorshkov), the start of construction of an indigenous carrier in India, and other military modernization efforts are undoubtedly influenced by Chinas activities.

India had previously leased a Soviet nuclear submarine, a Project 670/Charlie cruise missile submarine (SSGN). After 20 years in the Soviet fleet, the K-43 served in the Indian Navy from 1988 to 1991. She was employed primarily to train Indian personnel in nuclear propulsion and submarine operations.

-- Norman Polmar

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