Russian Akula-II On Sea Trials, Bound For India?
A Russian SSN originally laid down in 1991 is out on sea trials in the Sea of Japan, according to Russian media reports. Interestingly, it looks like the attack sub might be headed for India:
Indian media have reported on various occasions that the construction of the submarine was partially financed by the Indian government. India has reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton submarine.I tend to believe Indian sources more than the Russian Defense Minister, so it's likely the sub is headed to India. This is especially interesting considering the recent report about the current troubles being faced by India's diesel submarine fleet. This brings up a good question for debate: is it better for a non-superpower to go for a smaller nuclear submarine fleet, or put their money into more diesel boats? My guess is that either is a good option for navies of limited means, but trying to go for both ends up with both the nuclear and non-nuclear sides of the sub fleet short-changed. Brazil also seems to be trying to "go nuclear" while still looking to increase her diesel fleet; of course, they have oil money to help in the funding. In all cases, I expect that any "third world" country that goes the nuclear route will have to rely on their supplier for specialized nuclear submarine maintenance requirements; this will continue to give the big powers significant input into how said SSNs are used -- if they don't like what they're going to do with it, they'll threaten to withhold support.
According to Indian defense sources, Nerpa is expected to join the Indian navy under the designation INS Chakra in the second half of 2009.
The submarine will not be equipped with long-range cruise missiles due to international restrictions on missile technology proliferation, but India may later opt to fit it with domestically designed long-range nuclear-capable missiles.
However, a spokesman for the Amur shipyard earlier said that Nerpa differed considerably from the previous Akula-class submarines.
"Our Nerpa is fitted with more sophisticated navigation, sonar, and hydraulic systems," he said.
Russian state officials have categorically denied reports of a possible lease of a nuclear submarine to India.
Asked in late September to comment on media reports on alleged plans to export nuclear submarines, in particular to India, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said: "The press discusses lots of things. We do not export nuclear submarines."
India previously leased a Charlie I class nuclear submarine from the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991.