Navy signs lease for third Russian nuclear submarine - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 7 March 2019

Navy signs lease for third Russian nuclear submarine

Will join the navy in 2025, after current INS Chakra (pictured here) completes its 10-year lease

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Mar 19

Underlining slow progress in the indigenous project to design and build six nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs), India and Russia have signed a ten-year lease for a new Russian SSN, which will join the Indian fleet around 2025.

The navy already operates a Russian SSN, called INS Chakra, which was taken on a ten-year lease in April 2012 for almost a billion dollars. This was to return to Russia in 2022, but defence ministry sources say its lease could be extended by three years, while the next INS Chakra is built.

India leased its first nuclear submarine, the Charlie-class INS Chakra, in 1988. That went back to Russia in 1991 and the navy did without an SSN for 21 years until it leased an Akula-class SSN, the second INS Chakra, in 2012.

India has indigenously designed and built a nuclear-propelled, nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), called INS Arihant. A second SSBN, called INS Arighat, is to follow shortly, with two more in the pipeline. SSBNs are not a part of the navy’s combat fleet. They are armed with nuclear tipped ballistic missiles that are the underwater leg of India’s nuclear delivery triad – i.e. nuclear weapons delivered by land-based missiles, aircraft-dropped weapons and those fired from under water.

SSNs, in contrast, are a part of the navy’s combat fleet. They are propelled by a nuclear reactor, but do not carry nuclear weapons. Their weapons load consists of land attack and anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes to sink enemy shipping.

While the current INS Chakra operates Russian weaponry and command systems, the next Chakra will be fitted with Indian systems, to validate them for the indigenous submarines. However, a key system that remains to be developed is a nuclear reactor for the SSN.

Besides the Chakra, the navy also operates 14 conventional submarines and is to receive five more Scorpene submarines under construction in Mazagon Dock, Mumbai. These also fire missiles and torpedoes but, since their diesel engines cannot run underwater for lack of air, a conventional submarine can remain submerged for only as long as its on-board electric batteries provide power. When the batteries are drained, typically in 8-48 hours, the submarine must surface to run its generators and recharge batteries. A surfaced submarine is vulnerable to detection and attack.

In contrast, an SSN’s nuclear reactor can run underwater, allowing it to remain submerged indefinitely, when it is extremely hard to detect. This allows SSNs to slip underwater into its patrol area – say the Gulf of Malacca – and lurk in ambush for days on end, listening through its sonar for enemy ships. Then it can torpedo them and escape at high speed underwater.

SSNs are ideal for these so-called “sea denial” missions, in which one denies the enemy the use of the sea. Meanwhile the navy uses aircraft carrier battle groups for “sea control” missions, where carrier-borne air power dominates an expanse of ocean.

The cost of the ten-year lease signed on Thursday is being reported as $3 billion. That would be over thrice the cost of the lease of the current INS Chakra.


  1. NSR says ---

    When India has Arihant and Arighat to follow soon, and then two more later, then it may not be good idea at all to spend $3 billions on a Nuclear submarine lease …
    Chakra II will be there for a while so no need to spend $3 billions on this lease...

    India can use the $3 billion invest in SSN and SSBNs and make L&T a premier company for R&D, Design and Development, manufacturing, and maintenance...

    Also immediately order 6 more Scorpenes with DRDO AIP, and also with some improvements and 100% indigenization of manufacturing in this cycle...

    These two oactions will keep Indian submarine fleet in good shape...
    Do not waste resources when MOD budget is constrained so badly...

  2. A diesel sub is quiet while a nuclear sub needs to cool its nuclear CORE.

  3. things are moving quickly on the acquisition front and I think will continue until elections. this is a welcome change as in the past last months were reserved for no decision making.
    now India must leverage these large contract for putting pressure on our neighbour.
    The SSN project will move once we have a reactor design in place and for that we will have to collaborate either with Russians or the french. let's hope that happens soon.
    the navy must now quickly close other priority projects like LPD, ASW and MCMV. P75i will take much more time.

  4. This is another threat to Pakistan, given its economy its obvious it cannot compete in an arms race.
    But the SSN is also a threat to China
    Being the smaller economy, Pakistan looks to affordable solutions to counter the problem that is INDIA
    in order to counter a future blockade by India, Pakistan has offered the Chinese an option to establish a base near the waters off Karachi harbour, the Chinese already have the beginning of a naval base at Gwador, Pakistan may opt sharing other sheltered territorial waters closer to the Indian coast.
    Pakistan is enanhancing human intelligence, to keep track of the Indian SSNs as they leave port, installing more advanced sonar and other listening stations. Pakistan detected a submarine in its waters very recently with an Indian acoustic signature.
    Pakistan does make all provisions to endure an expected Indian blockade, by contingency planning and stockpiling .
    Pakistan strength lies in asymmetric war, it will eventually expand its sponsorship of a number of dissent groups within India.
    In this regard there are two areas that Pakistan will work on slowly and for the long term.
    it will take advantage that India has a large Muslim population under attack which is getting increasingly disgruntled - try and recruit from this population into networks and create dissent. The established Maoist insurgency is another area where Pakistan will bring its Afghanistan experience by arming and training groups.
    It will enhance its well trained cyber force, made up of specialists and ask China for more expertise.
    There are a number of smaller imaginative methods Pakistan uses to establish parity with India without breaking the bank - Example The priority Is to expand sniper schools for training of high grade snipers for targets across the LOC..reorganisation of militants into cells...counter measures against informants..techniques in IED making and planting.. we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg.
    As Indian commentators like to proclaim “There is plenty of room left under the nuclear umbrella to teach Pakistan a lesson”
    And vice versa.


  5. Truth will out, they claim to have footage and the worlds satellites were trained on the LoC and PAF did their operation during day-light. It may take a while, but it will out. However couple of things are becoming clearer:

    - IAF will be unable to rollover PAF in 48 hours or even 2 weeks (PAF have closed the technology GAP).
    - IA formations must have layered SAM cover, as IAF will only be able to gain localised air superiority same as PAF will.
    - Realistic capabilities of our forces must be considered not just what we wish them to be.
    - The current capabilities of Air forces and Armies is too close to gain a comprehensive victory. Only Navy has the capability advantage, though this will close once they get 8 Submarines from China.
    - We showed far too much of what we are capable of and were thinking of doing. They coped better than expected and will be even more prepared.
    - Pakistanis will invest more than ever in medium range SS missiles to target our key installations and cities.
    - India does not have conventional superiority over Pakistan.
    - Our forces are beginning to be affected by their politicization.


  6. As your blog is read by a number of Army Officers I would like to comment here.
    Some retired defence personnel are going through PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and then they are subjected to discussions on TV News outlets making their illness even worse. One such individual has mental health issues and is wheeled out constantly by a news anchor as a supporting panelist.
    He is also being cynically exploited by a political party and made to address rallies.
    This individual needs help and is unwell, this must stop now.

  7. The same seriousness by Modi govt is not shown for replacement of MIG21. They also have sat on it from 2014 with no progress. This lacunae can be seen aftermath Pulwama terror strike and its repercussions

    1. Tehlka scam created the problem.... single tender. Mirage production line was shut down for RAFALE

  8. NSR says ---

    Commodore Anil Jai Singh (Retd) wrote on IDN...

    India has planned a force of five ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), six SSNs and 18 conventional submarines (SSK). INS Arihant, the indigenously built SSBN successfully completed her first deterrent patrol last year and the second, Arighat is undergoing trials. The SSK construction programme is also progressing, albeit behind schedule. However, the SSN programme is still at a design stage. Hence the continued lease of an SSN, such as the Akula-2 will not only enhance the operational and maintenance expertise required for these but will also provide valuable insights into designing and building such submarines.

    Perhaps he is right as he has first hand knowledge...
    May be Russia is also helping India in SSBN and SSN programs in lieu of this expensive lease program...

    Does these leased submarines allow India to put their Nuclear Missiles on them? or only conventional munitions?
    Do you have any answer for it?

  9. Russia is just trying to fleece India for its products. Its a failed country with some tech knowledge which it is trying to milk to the maximum.

  10. Regarding comment above 8 March at 20:35
    As a former army clinical Psychiatrist my opinion is the retired gentleman from the army on talk shows, does not have PTSD,
    I have analysed his speech pattern made at a recent rally which is available on utube, the gentleman is an ardent fan of the RSS and is merely displaying behaviour consistent with the culture - where it’s it normal to become emotional about patriotism and get into a apoplexy of rage against Pakistan - taken in the context of his political affiliation, he is not suffering from a mental illness.
    However I would suggest the elderly officer does get himself checked up for early stages of Alzheimer’s (dementia) at his next medical.

  11. Indian navy must have wanted a leased sub for some reason. Good to have signed it early.

    Jet fighter acquisition is different. It was a mess during UPA era. NDA 2 rightly pushed it through based on the then DPP. It is still unnecessarily getting dragged into controversy , by politics.

  12. Pakistan will not sit quietly and watch. Some recent measures to increase capability
    A contract has been signed by Turkish defence firm STM to modernise Pakistan submarines and enhance capabilities four Agosta 90Bs. Turkey will also deliver four MILGEM-class warships equipped with stealth technologies & used for search, rescue, patrol, observation, & anti-submarine warfare operations.
    Pakistan has the acoustic profiles of props of all Indian subs, once our sonar detects you in our waters you are dead.
    The Indian navy will never risk a SSN being sunk off our coast.
    If this is a hunter killer meant to kill Chinese subs, then all I can say is good luck to you, the stronger, better trained and resourced navy will win. I suggest we should concentrate on pulling our people out of poverty following the example set by our neighbor China.

  13. Why has the price for the same submarine gone up 3X in 6 years since the last contract was signed? Which 6,000 - 8,000 ton SSN nuclear submarine costs $3 Billion or 21,000 crores? Not even the latest Virginia class SSN of the US Navy which costs $ 2 Billion.

    Look at the pattern. Every arms package India buys from the global market is the priciest deal for that particular package - be it Rafale, be it Hercules C - 130J, C - 17 or S - 400. Why ?


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