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Nuke Submarine
Naval chief’s remarks stir global curiosity
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 18
A remark by Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta about the Indian navy shopping for the Russian SSN Akula Class nuclear submarine has virtually shone the spotlight on India’s efforts to build such a vessel.

Globalsecurity.org, a website dedicated to international security issues says India has been trying to obtain the expertise to build a nuclear submarine since 1985 though the project was first mooted ten years earlier. India is said to be building such capacities in order to protect is geo-strategic interests in the face of China asserting its might on the sea lanes from South Africa to the Malacca Straits.

A nuclear-powered submarine, of the kind being sought to be built by India, can remain underwater over very long periods of time. Moreover, it can be equipped with cruise missiles that can be used in land operations, say analysts. India’s quest for the nuclear submarine has been aided mainly by Russia. The first such submarine acquired by India was the Charlie I class submarine from Russia which allowed India to evaluate the technology and train its personnel on this type of vessels. Admiral Mehta only confirmed the continued dependence on Russian technology when he referred to efforts by India to obtain the Akula Class nuclear submarine from its old ally.

According to analysts, Russia has already completed work on the Akula Class Nerpa nuclear submarine at its Amur shipyard. This submarine may be leased to the Indian Navy in the next two years, Admiral Mehta said recently. Observers of the Russian defence sector say, India may have funded construction of the Akula class submarine ever since the shipyards of that country ran short of funds following the end of the Cold War.

At least two Akula or Project 971 Class submarines are to be leased to the Indian Navy for ten years as per a deal signed between the two countries in 2004. Nerpa is the most advanced of Russia's nuclear attack submarines. These vessels are equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a range of 3,000 km.

Simultaneously, the Indian defence establishment has been building adequate nuclear capabilities to fuel such submarines. More than a year ago, Jane’s Navy International reported that the country’s nuclear establishment had developed 100 MW nuclear reactor adequately miniaturised to fit into a submarine. The reactor is said to be fully operational.

“The induction of nuclear weapons under sea constitutes the third triad (in our minimum nuclear deterrent plans),” Admiral Mehta has been quoted as saying. India’s own nuclear submarine or Advanced Technology Vessel will be ready in two years’ time Mehta had further added.

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