The nuclear submarine ‘Chakra III’ will take six years to complete and India is keen to embed shipbuilders during its refitting
India is moving ahead with its plan to lease a third nuclear attack submarine from old ally Russia for an estimated $ 2.5 billion. This will include the refit of the boat at a Cold War-era shipyard followed by a ten-year deployment with the Navy.
The lease plans and discussions are being kept under wraps by both sides but ThePrint has learnt that work is on at a fast pace since the agreement was signed in October last year.
Tentatively being called the ‘Chakra III’ – India has leased two nuclear-propelled submarines from Russia in the past, including one currently in service – the project is likely to take over six years to be completed at a Russian shipyard.
Sources have told ThePrint that an Indian team that visited Russia has inspected and identified the hull of a Project 971 submarine that will be modernised and undergo a thorough refit to convert it into a modern nuclear attack boat.
Negotiations are currently on to embed a team of Indian shipbuilders to go through the refit process – which will basically build up the entire submarine again from an empty hull – to give them hands-on experience with complex submarine technology.
The refit will be carried out at the Russian shipyard town of Severodvinsk, where Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was also constructed. According to officials involved in the project, it would take 78 months for the project to be completed.
The one factor the Indian side needs to work on is that the government needs to pay for both the refit and lease of the submarine – something that will require a deviation from set financial rules.
The decision to go in for a deep refit of an existing submarine was taken because building a new one could have cost twice as much. The Project 971 submarine will be taken off from the Russian Navy for the lease.
There has been no announcement yet on which particular submarine would be refitted, but reports have named the Kashalot (K 322).
However, sources have told ThePrint that the two Project 971 submarines that are presently docked at Zvyozdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk are the Samara (K 295) and Bratsk (K 391), both of which were transported there in 2014. Indian teams are believed to have inspected both hulls.
The refit and lease of the Chakra III is particularly important for India that has cleared a project to construct a new line of nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed submarines (SSNs). The mammoth plan, expected to cost over $12 billion, is for six modern vessels to be made in India – which will require trained shipbuilders and design help.
The first official comments on the plan came in 2015, with a senior Navy officer revealing that the design work had started on the project, and the aim was to come out with a new class of submarines within 15 years.