Indian Navy in talks to get underwater rescue ship from Russian shipyard that built most of its submarines

A photo of the Igor Belousov class rescue vessel. Courtesy: Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau

Price negotiations are on for a ship that can be used for rescue operations on nuclear submarines as well

St Petersburg: The Admiralty Shipyards in Russia has produced most of the submarines that are in the Indian Navy – from the Foxtrot class that has been retired, to the Kilos that still form the bulk of the fleet. The Russian shipyard is now in advanced talks with the Indian Navy for an underwater rescue vessel that can be the difference between life and death for the crew of a crippled submarine.

The top executive of the Admiralty shipyard told The Print that price negotiations are currently on with the Indian Navy for a new rescue vessel with the two sides having overcome all other technical issues. The Igor Belousov class rescue vessel will be designed for rescue operations on conventional and nuclear-powered submarines – a fleet that is set to grow exponentially over the next decade in the Indian Navy.

“There were some technical issues that we have discussed and overcome. Now we are discussing the pricing. We are hopeful that we will soon win the contract,” Alexander Buzakov, Director General of the Admiralty shipyard, said.

The Russian ship is designed to carry out rescue operations – providing air and supplies to a crippled submarine as well as operating vessels close to it – up to a depth of 1000 meters. Designed to operate in rough seas up to sea state 7, the Russian Navy has one such rescue ship operational and is likely to order four more for its fleet.

A file image of the Igor Belousov class vessel that the Indian Navy is in talks to obtain.

India has a dire need for a submarine rescue vessel and for years has operated without adequate rescue gear in case of an accident at sea. After two major accidents on-board submarines in the preceding years raised eyebrows, the Navy last year finally ordered two British-made submersibles that can be used for rescue operations. The James Fisher Defence submersibles can rescue 16 sailors at a time from a depth of 16 meters, but need a vessel to be operated from.

The Russian shipyard said that the concerns India had about housing the British submersible with the Igor Belousov class rescue ship have been resolved.

“The Indian side wanted to know if additional rescue equipment could be added to the ship. We have now confirmed that the British submersible vessel can be integrated,” Buzakov said.

The vessel is important for India given its plans to operate a fleet of at least 6 nuclear-powered attack submarines and an equal number of nuclear-armed submarines in the coming years. The lack of a rescue vessel has been sorely felt. During the extensive sea trials last year of the INS Arihant – India’s first nuclear missile-armed submarine –  a Russian naval vessel had to be engaged as backup in case of any  emergency.

(The correspondent is in Russia on the invitation of the state owned United Shipbuilding Corporation) 

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