Questions are being raised over the safety of India’s submarine fleet following yet another incident involving a Russian-origin Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhuratna, .
India currently operates 10 kilo-class submarines, of which eight including, the INS Sindhuratna, were built by Sevmash and upgraded at the Zvezdochka shipyard in Russia.
The latest incident comes as a blow to the Indian Navy whose submarine fleet has experienced three mishaps in the last year. Earlier in 2013, India’s newly upgraded kilo-class submarine, the INS Sindhurakshak, reportedly fully-armed at the time, was destroyed by a fire. In January, the INS Sindhughosh nearly ran aground while entering the Mumbai harbour during a low-tide phase.
The overhauled Indian submarines are equipped with 3M-54 Club-S (SS-N-27) anti-ship cruise missiles, the Indian-developed USHUS sonar, CCS-MK radio communications system and Porpoise radar.
The spate of accidents involving India’s Russian-origin submarines has left many wondering about the state of the navy’s submarine fleet and the quality of work carried out in the overhaul.
According to reports, the Zvezdochka shipyard is expecting to receive its next retrofit contract from India in 2014 or 2015. It also will repair and upgrade the Sindukirti Kilo class submarine at the vessel's base in Visakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The explosion reportedly originated from the submarine’s battery compartment and was being sea tested after a refit, about 40 to 50 km off the Mumbai coast when the smoke was detected. The Russian-origin Kilo Class submarine was carrying no weapons or ammunition, the reports said.
An archetypal Kilo-class submarine has a displacement of 2,300 tonnes, length of 72.6 meters, a submerged speed of 19 knots (about 35 kilometres an hour), a test depth of 300 metres, a crew of 52 and endurance of 45 days. The subs are armed with six 533 mm torpedo tubes.
The INS Sindhuvir and INS Sindhuraj were modernized at the Admiralty Shipyard and another five subs - INS Sindhukesari, INS Sindhuratna, INS Sindhugosh and INS Sindhuvijay and INS Sindhurakshak – were also modernized at - Zvyozdochka Shipyard in Severodvinsk.
Till the time of writing there has been no statement from the Indian Navy. Meanwhile, the Navy is yet to complete its inquiry to ascertain the reasons behind the accident however according to various reports the incident has been concluded as an “accident”.