India on Wednesday formally inducted a Russian-made nuclear-powered Nerpa attack submarine to its navy at a ceremony in the eastern city of Visakhapatnam. India thereby joins an elite club of nations having submarines capable of deploying nuclear weapons.
The 8,140-tonne Akula II-class Nerpa submarine, rechristened INS Chakra II, was formally commissioned into the navy by India's Defense Minister AK Antony at the Ship Building Complex in Visakhapatnam.
"This will be a big boost for the Indian navy. The INS Chakra will ensure security and sovereignty of the country," Antony told reporters after the ceremony.
Speaking on the occasion, Russian ambassador Alexander M Kadakin said: "Russia is India's best friend and can give everything India needs. We want to see India as a strong power, capable of combating any challenge or threat with pride and confidence as a great power in the making."
The Russian submarine is being leased to India under a $900-million contract for ten years. It was handed to India in Russia's far-eastern Primorye Territory in January. Russian submariners had earlier trained their Indian counterparts to steer the Nerpa in the Pacific Ocean.
The submarine with a maximum speed of 30 knots and having a displacement of 8,140/12,770 tons, is armed with four 533 mm and an equal number of 650 mm torpedo tubes. It can operate at a maximum depth of 600 meters and its endurance is 100 days with a crew of 73.
India had previously operated another a Soviet nuclear submarine until 1991. With the induction of Nerpa on Wednesday, India rejoins China, Russia, the US, the UK and France as an operator of nuclear submarines after a 20-year gap.
India is also developing an indigenous nuclear submarine, the Arihant. It is expected to be inducted into the country's navy some time this year. Russia has promised to train Arihant's crew when the vessel becomes operational.
India is one of the biggest importer of Russian military equipment, arms and fighter planes. The two countries had posted bilateral trade worth $7.5 billion in 2009, and are currently aiming to increase the volume to $20 billion by 2015. India depends on Russia for about 70% of its military hardware requirements.
The Nerpa is one of Russia's latest nuclear-powered submarines, and belongs to a class of attack submarines codenamed "Akula" by NATO. The "Akula" submarines are those armed with conventional torpedoes and cruise missiles.
It was transferred to Russian navy on December 28, 2009 after passing a series of tests. Although the work on the submarine began in 1993, it was only launched in 2008 because of frequent disruptions in funding its construction.
The submarine became famous after an accident during trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008 killed 20 people and injured 21 others on board. The accident reportedly happened when the submarine's fire extinguishing system went off unexpectedly.
by RTT Staff Writer
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