Skip to comments.Dragon Slayer (Indian nuclear sub)
Posted on 04/02/2012 11:17:43 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
India's first nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra all set to hit seas
On April 4, India will become only the world's sixth country to operate a nuclear-powered submarine. The induction of INS Chakra, a Russian-built Akula II attack submarine (SSN) will substantially alter the navy's ability to project power into the Indian Ocean. It is the single biggest force-multiplier India has acquired to counter the entry of the Chinese navy into the Indian Ocean.
The submarine, with a crew of 100 personnel, is near the end of its five-week sea journey covering more than 5,000 km from Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East, to Visakhapatnam where the vessel will be based. The passage was cloaked in secrecy and the vessel cruised beneath the waves passing Japan, China, the Philippines and the Indonesian archipelago. It was the first demonstration of its practically unlimited endurance.
"The Chakra represents a game-changing technology that definitely alters the balance in our favour, but the tragedy is that we are getting only one whereas we need at least eight such submarines," says strategic affairs analyst Rear Admiral (retd) Raja Menon.
The submarine is powered by a nuclear reactor that gives it enormous power and endurance. But it does not carry nuclear weapons. In this sense, it does nothing for India's sea-based nuclear deterrent. This third leg of the nuclear triad calls for a submarine prowling at sea with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. That capability will come only with the induction of the indigenous 6000-tonne Arihant class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) that began trials this year and is still two years away from induction. "The Chakra gives the navy the ability to operate a nuclear-powered submarine in preparation to operate our own indigenously built SSBN," says Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research.
Training personnel to man the Arihant class nuclear submarines is one of the primary roles of the Chakra. Officials, however, say an important role will be to perform 'sea denial missions' in and around the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. It can stalk and attack enemy warships with cruise missiles and torpedoes, using its virtually unrefuelled range.
'NonAlignment 2.0: a foreign and strategic policy for India in the 21st century' released in March this year by two former national security advisers, Brajesh Mishra and M.K. Narayanan, calls for a three-pronged asymmetric strategy to deal with a Chinese attack on India. The third prong is naval. "We should be in a position to dominate the Indian Ocean region (IOR)," the document notes. The Chakra fits into this strategy. For instance, it will allow the navy to rush the submarine to vital chokepoints in the ior and to stalk hostile surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines. The new submarine is free from critical restrictions imposed by the erstwhile Soviet Union on an earlier nuclear submarine acquired, also named Chakra, on a three-year lease in 1988. The old Chakra could not be used in war. The new one can.
That is not the only way this submarine, dubbed 'Akula' (shark) by NATO, is different from the earlier namesake. The older vessel was an elderly Charlie I class submarine retired soon after India returned it. The reborn Chakra is one of the quietest, most lethal undersea vessels in the world. Military analysts compare it to early models of the US Navy's Los Angeles class attack submarines. It will also give Indian designers a look at a larger nuclear-powered submarine for larger 12,000-tonne variants of the Arihant, capable of carrying 5,000-km range ballistic missiles.
The submarine was laid down in the shipyard of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East as the 'Nerpa' in the early 1990s. Its construction was halted after the break-up of the Soviet navy. A secret deal was signed in 2004 and India transferred an estimated $650 million for the completion of the unfinished hull. The crew for the submarine underwent an 18-month training at a shore-based facility near St Petersburg in 2005. They had to wait nearly six years before they could see the actual submarine. The submarine was to have been inducted in early 2008 but the project was dogged by delays. The worst of these was during its sea trials in the Sea of Japan, when a November 2008 accidental gas discharge killed 20 Russian crew members. The delays have resulted in an anomaly: The Chakra's commanding officer Captain P. Asokan has to contend with four other captains on board, officers promoted to their next rank during the seven-year wait.
Extreme care has been taken for safety after the August 2000 disaster that killed all 118 crew of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk. The Chakra has been retrofitted with a fin-mounted spherical escape sphere. In an emergency, the entire 100-member crew can fit into the 20-foot wide, 50-foot tall sphere and ascend to the surface.
The Chakra displaces over 12,000 tonnes underwater. That's roughly three times the displacement of a conventional 2,300-tonne Kilo class submarine currently operated by the navy. Crewmen say they are overawed by the size of their vessel. "It's incredible," says one submariner. "It's like being on board a large surface ship. One of our Kilo class submarines could fit into the Chakra's control room," he says. Crewmen can walk erect instead of crouching. The larger submarine allows for more comfortable living spaces. Conventional submarines provide bunks for only half their crew. Every crewmember of the Chakra has a bunk. Size clearly has its comforts.
Does someone need a refresher on the definition of "sphere"?
The Chakra? Are they going to get Al Gore to “christen” it? Whack it on the nose with a box of rubbers and as it slides down the ways yell “Release the Chakra!”?
The PRCs will not be pleased.