India and Russia have signed an intergovernmental agreement for a 10-year lease of a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), according to Indian media reports.
Indian defense sources speaking to The Print on the condition of anonymity said that the deal to lease a new sub, designated Chakra III, purportedly the Russian Navy’s K-322 Kashalot (Akula II-class) SSN, was inked on March 7 in the Indian capital of New Delhi. No additional details were provided.
Neither the Indian nor Russian governments have officially confirmed that a deal has been signed this week. The intergovernmental agreement is also just the initial hurdle in what is likely to be a protracted procurement process. Detailed contract negotiations are expected to follow, and based on the historical record of Indo-Russian defense relations their successful conclusion is not a given.
For example, India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement for the the co-development and production of the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), also known in India as the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) in 2007. However, both sides could not agree on numerous issues and a final contract was never signed.
Next to the K-322 Kashalot (Akula II-class) SSN, currently mothballed at a Russian naval shipyard in Severodvinsk, two other SSNs were reportedly under consideration for possible transfer to the Indian Navy under the lease agreement, the K-391 Bratsk and K-295 Samara–both serving with the Russian Pacific Fleet.
As I explained earlier this week, the new SSN will feature indigenous Indian naval technology:
The SSN is reportedly going to be fitted with Indian communication systems and sensors and will feature a refurbished hull.
(…) These Indian-made systems will likely include the indigenously-developed USHUS integrated sonar system as well as the Panchendriya sonar, a unified submarine sonar and tactical control system. The same systems have been installed on the INS Arihant, the first of five planned nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) for the Indian Navy.
Based on open source information regarding the Akula II-class, the 8,140-ton Chakra III will have a submerged speed of 30 knots and an operating depth of 530 meters. It will hold a crew of 73. Furthermore, the SSN is armed with four 650-millimeter and four 533-millimeter launch tubes for firing Russian-made Type 65 and Type 53 torpedoes. The sub will likely use a 190 mW nuclear reactor for propulsion.
The Indian Navy has leased two other submarines from Russia in the past. In 1988, the Navy commissioned a Project 670 Skat-class (NATO classification: Charlie-class) nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, rechristened INS Chakra, under a three-year lease. In 2012, a second INS Chakra, the retrofitted K-152 Project 971 Akula-class Nerpa, was leased for a decade. The Chakra was put into service by the Navy in 2012 and is deployed with the Eastern Naval Command. India and Russia are reportedly discussing extending the lease for another five years to 2027.