In 1988, India leased one nuclear submarine of ‘Charlie-I’ class from Russia. This submarine was named as ‘Chakra’ and was in service with the Indian navy up to 1991. The officers and men of the Indian navy could get excellent experience of running a nuclear power submarine during that period. Subsequently, no nuclear submarine of any type was inducted by the navy. Because of this, all the experience and the expertise developed by the Navy in running and maintaining a nuclear powered submarine, was lost as all men operating ‘Chakra’ eventually retired. This raises the question as to why this Chakra exercise was done at all? I do not think that any one can really answer this question.
Indian Navy is all set to repeat the same exercise again. On 30th November 2011 , Indian navy received an ‘Akula-2’ class submarine on lease from Russia for a period of 10 years. The original name for this particular submarine was ‘K-152 NERPA’ . India has rechristened it as ‘Chakra’ again. This submarine has been in limelight ever since it has been built. In 2004, Indians had paid 650 Million Dollars to Russia for eventual leasing out of this Submarine. There were number of difficulties in the construction and the project was much delayed. In November 2008, during sea trials, 20 sailors had died during an accident on board due to poisonous gas leakage. Russia now says that the submarine is now ready for operational use. Fifty Indian mariners have been already trained on the submarine and would man it now. The submarine is equipped with a complement of torpedoes and ‘Club-S’ cruse missiles and packs a powerful punch. Still, due to international restrictions, India can not fit any Nuclear tipped missiles on this submarine. Still, India.s dream of having a nuclear Triad (capability to attack from missiles in air, on land and from below sea) is not achievable by having this submarine in command.
Navy’s grand plan appears to be that till the time, when ‘Arihant’ (Nuclear Submarine made by India) joins the navy with full operational capability, operational experience can be obtained on this submarine, leased from Russia.
The idea appears very sound in theory and on paper. Yet, the way operational experience gained with ‘Chakra 1.0’ was totally wasted, no one can say for sure that it would not be repeated this time. The past experience of India made weapons has not been particularly encouraging and have remained only as white elephants. Local made main battle tank ‘Arjun’ was never accepted by the army. The light combat aircraft ‘Tejas’ is still not fully operational for squadron duty. There is no guaranty that ‘Arihant’ may not follow suit. No one can really predict the outcome. Unfortunately if ‘Arihant’ follows the ‘Arjun’ or ‘Tejas’, it is feared that the lease of ‘Chakra 2.o’ would be just an repeat of the exercise ‘Chakra 1.0’.
4 January 2012