India upgrades submarine fleet

April 2, 2012 at 9:18 AM
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LAHORE, Pakistan, April 2 (UPI) -- The Indian navy is about to deploy two new submarines.

Indian Defense Research and Development Organization head V. K. Saraswat said that the Indian navy is preparing to receive the two nuclear powered submarines soon as it will induct the Russian Nerpa Akula II class attack submarine and launches its first indigenous built nuclear boat, the INS Arihant.

India's defense establishment over the next five years said it intends to purchase $20 billion in fighter jets, $1.5 billion worth of refueling aircraft and billions of dollars in submarines, tanks and artillery among other equipment, all part of an estimated $80 billion weapons acquisition program.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has said India was the world's largest weapons importer for 2007-11, followed by South Korea, Pakistan and China.

Saraswat said the Nerpa has been leased from Russia for 10 years and will be delivered next week, The Nation reported Sunday.

"INS Arihant is in advanced stages," Saraswat said. "It will be ready for operations in next few months ... It (the nuclear reactor) is not critical yet."

The Russian Federation has been India's single largest source of advanced weaponry and the Indian navy has been dependent on Russia for advanced vessels that India is as yet unable to construct.

India is capable of producing on 30 percent of its weapons systems domestically.

In 2004 the Indian navy bought the Soviet-era carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which has been upgraded at Russia's Severodvinsk White Sea shipyard. Later this month the ship, renamed INS Vikramaditya, will begin sea trials in the Barents Sea.

Since 2008 India has sought a newly built Russian-built carrier but the cost has reportedly doubled to $2.3 billion in the wake of repeated disputes with Moscow.

In addition, the Indian navy is planning two more carrier purchases 2017.

Currently India's sole operational carrier is the INS Viraat, the 1950s-era British-built carrier, formerly HMS Hermes, purchased by India in 1987.

In February 2009 Cochin Shipyard Limited laid the keel for the first aircraft carrier to be designed and built in India. The first Vikrant class aircraft carrier is to enter service in 2016 but numerous problems have led to delays in the vessel's construction.

The issues included Russia's inability to supply the necessary amounts of AB/A grade steel, leading India's Defense Metallurgical Research Laboratory and Steel Authority of India Limited to build facilities to manufacture the carrier-grade steel in India.

As with the Admiral Gorshkov, the delivery of the Nerpa, had been scheduled for delivery to India in 2008 but was delayed after 20 people, mostly civilians, died during sea trials in the Pacific when a fire-suppressant gas was accidently released aboard the boat.

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