The long-rumored transfer and lease of the Russian Akula-class attack submarine Nerpa to India reportedly was completed on 30 December 2011. The submarine, renamed the Chakra for Indian service, had begun construction in the Soviet Union in 1986 and was still incomplete when word of a potential lease deal with India began to surface in the early 2000s. In November 2008, tragedy struck on board the submarine as she was preparing for transfer. A fire-extinguishing system on the vessel malfunctioned, killing 20 Russian crew members and injuring many others. The incident delayed the deal with India until sea trials were successfully completed in December 2011. Acquisition of this nuclear submarine will help alleviate India’s pressing requirement for new underwater capabilities, which have been exacerbated by delays acquiring new Scorpène-class attack boats and the 2010 retirement of India’s last aging Foxtrot-class sub. The new Chakra is not only a powerful addition to the fleet, but also will help Indian submariners train as the nation builds its own nuclear-submarine construction capability.
By Eric Wertheim