Submarines: The Mythical Indian SSN Goes to Sea


July 6, 2006: The long rumored, but much denied, deal for Indian to lease one, or two, Russian Akula II class nuclear attack subs, is hot news once more. That's because one of the Akula II subs, the Nerpa, was recently launched at the Russian Pacific shipyards. The Nerpa will be completed and undergo sea trials next year.


In 2002, the stories began to appear, that India was leasing one, or two, Russian nuclear attack submarines (SSN). Eventually, both India and Russia denied the deal, which was promptly renamed as "a secret deal." The term of the lease was said to be ten years.


The Akula II class boat, which was being built in a yard dear the Chinese border, was 85 percent complete in 2004, and, at the time, it was said that the boat would be turned over to India in 2007. In the meantime, Indian submariners are supposed to be undergoing training, in secret. There have been stories of Indian sailors spotted at Russian naval bases. Construction of new Akula II subs was stalled, in the 1990s, for lack of cash, and the story was that the Indians are now supplying the cash to complete construction. 


Russia introduced the Akula class subs in 1984, and has continued building them and upgrading the design. The 10,600 ton Akula II is considered roughly equivalent to the 6,900 ton American Los Angeles class (which first appeared in the 1970s). There are ten Akulas in service, and six more under construction. 


The first Akula II boat went to sea in 2001, although some say a 1995 Akula I was actually an Akula II. The Akula II is supposed to be much quieter than the Akula I. Apparently it is, but not as quiet as the Russians claim. Akula II is, however, the first Russian sub to approach American standards of quietness. Some of the "quiet" technology was obtained with the help of a spy ring the Russians had in the U.S. Navy during the 1970s and 80s, as well as an embarrassing deal that allowed key Japanese manufacturing technology to be exported to Russia in the 1980s. 


The Akula II carries 28 cruise missiles. These can be of various types, and the Indians are believed to be leaning toward a 300 kilometer range anti-ship missile. Despite all the speculation and denials, one fact remains. With one of these boats, Indian would neutralize the Pakistani navy, and shut down Pakistani ports. Even if the Chinese navy ventured into the Indian ocean with hostile intent, this one sub is more formidable than any nuclear ships the Chinese have. Originally designed, during the Cold War, to take on the American fleet, the Akula boats are super weapons compared to anything available in the Indian Ocean. The Akulas are not invincible. The Indian crew could get sloppy, and the Pakistani's could get lucky. But the smart money would be on the Akula, not the opposition.