Akula in a Chakra-vyuh?

Image result for pics of INS Chakra


The Press reported Sept 4 about damage done to its sonar dome  as the ex-Russian ‘Nerpa’ — Akula SSN — INS Chakra — was making its way back to or embarking on a patrol from — it isn’t clear which — its home base in Vishakhapatnam. ( http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/accident-on-board-ins-chakra/article19793626.ece). The Vizag channel is narrow and always challenging to negotiate, so this story is plausible.

However, another story is doing the rounds. It has to do with the discomfiture of Moscow with the growing closeness and intimacy between the Indian Navy and the US Navy and its fear that Americans may thus get access to the nuclear powered Akula submarine. The Akula is a showpiece of Russian engineering and still the leading SSN in the Russian fleet and the possibility of its being compromised  in any way is not something Moscow will accept with equanimity.

It is to prevent such possibility that the 2011 $1 billion for 10 years lease-contract for the Akula-Chakra has a provision for a Russian naval officer to be physically on board the vessel at all times — whether under sail or in port in Vizag — cannot be certain, but especially when it is in port. Distrust has grown to the extent that there’s talk of a list being given to the Manmohan Singh government in its last days by Moscow with the names of Indian naval officers, who the Russian government of Vladimir Putin believes are in thick with the US and may compromise/endanger the Akula by allowing Americans direct access to the submarine technologies or, more likely, by passing on classified data and information about the performance and the workings of the Akula to the US Navy.

The Russians are riled that the Manmohan Singh regime did nothing with the list, and that the Modi government, likewise, has not acted on it to ensure the IN officers mentioned therein are not permitted to be anywhere near the Akula. This may explain  Moscow’s hesitation and dragging out the negotiations for the lease for the second Akula — Iribis which is some 42% constructed or, more likely, the Kashalot which is sea-ready.  In July this year a weekly magazine carried the news about the Akula-Chakra needing to get back to Russia for refueling. ( http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/india-japan-us-navy-to-keep-check-china-multilateral-naval-exercise/1/995386.html  ) This doesn’t make sense because it is not up for the refueling cycle until 2021-2022. Refueling is an onerous process that involves cutting through the titanium alloy  hull to reach the reactor, and re-welding it after the fuel loading.

What is significant is to wonder whether it is refueling or repairing the bow part of the hull containing the “damaged” sonar dome that Chakra, the submarine has to go back to Russia. It may be a pretext for the Russians to get the boat back  — the increasing level of mistrust the Russian Navy feels for the Indian Navy being the reason. Russia will keep this Akula in the dock long past the refueling and/or repair time. If the SSN leaves Indian shores it may not return for a long time, if at all. And there’ll be no SSN in Indian service.

This is a pretty drastic step being contemplated by Russia, and will suddenly and hugely degrade the Indian navy’s sea denial capability, of course, but also crimp our strategic deterrence in many ways, considering the Akulas can hunt down Chinese SSBNs in the Indian Ocean. However, considering how countries value and safeguard their advanced military technology and hardware, Russia’s actions — assuming these will take the course as stated above, are not to be wondered at.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, corruption, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Akula in a Chakra-vyuh?

  1. Shiv S says:

    Good insight. National media will never highlight this kind of story.

  2. kaniskharsh says:

    Mr. Karnad, this is probably old to you. However, I would still like to hear your views.

    “Small Pointers of how MSM is cloaked from the reality of our SSBN Program
    INS Arihant began sea trials in 16 Dec 2014 in BoB with 9 months of sea trials and afterwards another < 9 months of weapon testing.
    INS Arihant fired K-15 Prototype in full operational configuration from a depth of 25m in November 2015 after conducting multiple dummy tests in Sep-Oct 2015.
    INS Arihant did ejection test for K4 Mk1 in Feb 2016 with 4 tubes ejection in a matter of seconds. The dummy included a mix of K4 Mk1 and K15 (3 different mission load configs from the same tube) replicas for a full discharge of its onboard ballistic firepower.
    INS Arihant fired K4 in a highly depressed trajectory in full operational configuration from a depth of 30m in March 2016 for approx 750 km.
    This was followed by INS Arihant firing a full capacity K4 Mk1 at a range of ~4000 km in A&N region. This was covered up by Multiple Brahmos test in A&N in simultaneous days and Navarea warnings issued for the same to clear out the whole area in the pathway.
    INS Arihant started deterrent patrolling from July 2016 onwards.
    Aridhaman did the first launch in April, 2016 and even participated in a naval exercise (limited capacity owing to deployment of Arihant in a deterrent patrol mission and since Ardhaman was undergoing sea trials) in the later part of 2016..
    Beginning January 2017, INS Aridhaman entered into weapon trials and is expected to complete it by September end 2017
    Formally October 2017 should see deployment of INS Aridhaman in deterrence patrol role.
    The Indian SSBN program is managed very well and have seen a huge upswing with the NSA Doval coming onboard. The MSM is completely blacked out and a massive surge in budget has been provided to quicken the pace of the under developed units.

    If the pace continues then we will see the indigenous SSN also at a much faster rate then expected.

    A piece of nasty surprise… Codenamed K6 with MIRV is in final stages along with land version A6. A range of 8000-10000 km is expected (based on twin configurations) but officially it will be claimed much lesser (like always). Its expected to be green lighted for testing within next year (unless geo political considerations change that decision)."

    Credits : DFI

    • satyaki says:


      If so much secrecy is indeed being maintained as claimed, why would this worthy who posted it in whichever forum know ? If he knows and is leaking it, is that not a breach of the relevant rules ? So, it may be random rumours. Then again with China, similar rumours have a habit of coming true later down the line. I do not know if that is the case with us.

  3. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    In spite of its not distancing our country from the U.S., the U.S. still seems bent on getting the Modi government defeated come 2019. Nothing else explains the concerted promotion of RaGa at elite U.S. universities, along with the latter’s mysterious visits to Norway and other western countries after dodging his own SPG cover. Witness also the noises being made by the opposition as well as Vajpayee era BJP leaders about the need for dialogue on Kashmir.

    While the Modi govt. has not gone along the nationalist path as far as we hoped for, it has not compromised on certain core interests, which the west would like to see. The west is probably working towards a leadership which gives up the nuclear deterrent unilaterally, allows free access to “civil society” , makes peace with Pak on Pak’s terms and accepts U.S. protection, turning into a South Korea like ally with no sovereignty. Modi would not agree to giving up the deterrent, while RaGa would go the whole hog with such a program (which the whole Cong in UPA days as well as Vajpayee era elements were working for, until Modi’s rise put a stop to this for the time being). This explains the current concerted “Launch RaGa” attempt, and many of the noises we see at the moment in politics.

    To what extent am I on the dot ? The less so, the better…

    • Kya says:

      Mmsingh the unelected gaddar pm akready destroyed induan nuke programne and missile prigramme.
      Fir that he was opposed by sonia gandhi but traitor hindu indian media and elite induabs opposed sonia and congresz objection and mmsingh single handedly pushed fir denuclearusation wich is falsy calked indo us nuje deal.
      So not congress but mmsingh gaddar has betrayed india.

  4. If the US is relying on Rahul G then it is a very thin reed indeed. In fact, he’s the best reason why the Opposition won’t be able to hack it against Modi come 2019 elections.

    • satyaki says:

      RahulG in the background (not explicitly put forth)+ a united opposition+deep assets in the BJP/RSS. Witness Yashwant Sinha talking like a separatist sympathizer on Kashmir. Witness a Vajpayee era RAW chief on a LSE program grovelling before his ISI counterpart and labelling the killing of the terrorist Burhan Wani a mistake. The rot runs deep, indeed.

      NaMo’ crackdown on NGOs and other such western political assets in our society makes me feel that once he is truly entrenched in power, our country will take a more nationalist course. If not for any other reason, it will be because the west will soon reveal its hostile attitude to “hindu nationalism” openly.

  5. Kya says:

    The way mmsjngh govt. Abd now even modi’s one has treated russian freindship as india’s right , must rile the russians who have seen indiand giving 15 billion dolkar worth if irder fir american junk in last 10byrs alone.

    Russia must not give s400 and t50 to ibdia.
    Let induans stewe themselves by buying old f16 and be happy with their delusion .

  6. Kya says:

    That unelected mm singh a disgraceful unelected pm wanted to help american navy to navigate in Indian oceon for which that traitor sikh wanted to disown existence of Ram as a real figure.
    He ofcourse also curbed indian nuke proramme ( through indo-us nuke deal which whole congress and sonia gandhi objected to ) apart from underfunding DRDO and indian military and neglecting rsilwsys because railways has strategic military importane too which he wanted to sabotage.

    In 2003, a team led by Professor S M Ramasamy, Centre for Remote Sensing (CRS), Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi said that the land/ beaches between Ramanathapuram and Pamban were formed due to the longshore drifting currents and suggested that “as the carbon dating of the beaches roughly matches the dates of Ramayana, its link to the epic needs to be explored.” A former director of the Geological Survey of India, S. Badrinarayanan, said that such a natural formation would be impossible due to the presence of a loose sand layer under corals for the entire stretch.

    However, the Government of India, in an affidavit in 2007 in the Supreme Court of India, said that there is no historical proof of the bridge being built by Ram. But in June 2007, the Madras High Court said that the mythological Ram Sethu across Palk Bay is man-made, asked the Centre to file an affidavit explaining why it could not use an alternative route to create a canal instead.

    That cryogenic engine was created with russian scientist helo _it was nit totalky native.
    Russuans were ready to give croyogenic engine tech in 2992 but america pressed yeltsin not to give that to india.
    Still russuans gave some to indiabs through back chsnnel but amerucan agent mm singh then finance minister let americans know and because of that traitor kutta mm singh a kerala scientist called Nambeee was put in jail for years.

  7. Kya says:

    North korea shows how manly leadership guarantees the freedom and liberty to the Nations who resist pressure to be a vassal and who make sure that they are strong enough to with stand that pressure.
    With so much arrogant bullying by the anglosaxons 5 evil eyes ,North korea has to safeguard her interests.
    UNO has failed to guarantee the rights of nations so if might is right then other nations have right to have that might as well .
    For that the leadership needs to have guts.
    Guts which was singularly lacking in case of India when that weakling atal bihari vajpayee put moratorium on further test within 4 days of nucklear tests , one was which was even a failure. All so that usa does not get annoyed !
    Then that foolishness was surpassed by that unelected and unelectable ( even in municipal election) mm singh the traitor prime minister who destryoed any chance of India to have believable deterrance or nukes.
    India does not have hydrogen bomb and will not have any – while even pakistan has one.
    Surpirse is that indians have never risen en mass to even catch that traitor mmsingh and tear him live into pieces for his treachery against India.

  8. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    The leak of the Akula tech would not be a sufficient reason for distrust because and as you point out:
    “It is to prevent such possibility that the 2011 $1 billion for 10 years lease-contract for the Akula-Chakra has a provision for a Russian naval officer to be physically on board the vessel at all times — whether under sail or in port in Vizag — cannot be certain, but especially when it is in port.”

    But this was coming for quite sometime and was apparent at the national stage, from the moment everybody kept quite about the team that helped Modi win on the national stage and BJP changed the colour of its kamal.

    While in power, Modi was fooled or more likely allowed himself to be fooled by Ashley type worms in the Indian strategic community. Perhaps a settlement like the one Congress had with the Brits had been arrived at. At that time too Vinayak Savarkar had ideas of competing with the Congress for British love. Indian public as usual is behaving like Ganesh Savarkar – dead before due and uninformed of what is happening at their expense and taken advantage off by all sides.

    Congress, esp. the family loyals were always in the US corner. And whether we like it or not US has had deep assets in the whole of the sub-continent for long and on both sides of the socio-political divides. Nothing otherwise explains the fratricidal politiking, rioting and permanent war like conditions, that keep us back forever.

    For the time being I am betting that Modi was merely trying to act smart by trying to replace the family loyals like the way Vinayak Savarkar wanted to. The family itself is now in the process of renewing its roots. Modi perhaps thought that he can get rid of Congress and have his own political legacy if he replaces the family loyals, on one to one basis. Rank and file that is better informed on both sides have traditionally kept their quite on these matters since they know they are going to be first beneficiaries. There are 3 parties and it remains to be seen who uses or abuses whom. Currently it seems US deep state is more successful in keeping both the other parties from getting to their respective goals but getting its own objectives anyhow.

    Pakis too were destroyed earlier from within socially and strategically. I wonder if the US controls their Nuke CnC indirectly by controlling the key personnel in their strategic community. The methodology used is quite transparent.

    You are worried about the Akula SSN. I am worried about the bloody nuke command and control and the triad that India has established with much sacrifice.

    For one Akula SSN would most likely not be the best in the Russian stable. Though I would admit that changing and improving subs is considerably more difficult than updating export verions of SAMs and fighters. So Russians may have some real concerns of their own. China too had in 1959 gotten closer to US by using and then returning the tech transfers that they were given. In their case it was the U-235 enrichment tech. Coincidently the Chinese had all the plans but they returned the physical plants etc. I wonder how much they had imbibed before they decided to switch boats. But anyhow they did return the plant and equipment. And to this day nobody knows how much of the Chinese WgU was from which source. Essentially because some don’t ask and chinese don’t answer. It is perhaps to avoid the short end of such shenanigans in India that the Russians decided to put their own officer in the Akula SSN.

    Given that we have already seen how the 12 billion USD LCA offer was made without changing any of the people who helped slow down LCA over the years. Then the Single Engined RFI from IAF and the No-Engine Specs RFI from the Indian Navy came along. Given also that the Russians have named names this time, there must be some slowing down of strategic projects of the kind that can be slowed down without anybody getting the wind of it. The Indian SSBN project seems to have acquired a life of its own though it is still very far from true maturity of the kind the US, Russian and China enjoy. May be the target is the Indian SSN or even SSKs or the submarine capabilities in general. After all the desperation for COMCASA and P-8I can only be made to increase and made justifiable, if we do not have enough SSNs and SSKs. Both the indigenous SSNs and the indigenous SSKs are in the primordial stage or non-existent. Or even more seriously a near complete subservience of the Indian Nuke CnC to US needs.

    To me the question is, if Plan-B the Plan-A.

  9. andy says:

    Akulas are a bit long in the tooth to be termed as showpieces of the Russian submarine fleet.The youngest Akula named ‘Gepard’ entered service in 2000(some say early 90s).

    The Yasen class is a more recent Russian SSN(although the design is late Soviet era)The problem with the Yasen is that it is too expensive to build,at least in the present economic slowdown in Russia,so only two have been inducted,Severodvinsk $1.6 billions in 2010 and Kagan $3.5 billions in 2017.Theres a big question mark over further inductions of the Yasen.The Akulas age reduces their operational readiness which will worsen as time goes by.

    Russians are already designing a better and maybe cheaper multipurpose nuclear submarine that will fulfill all three nuclear submarine roles of SSN,SSGN and SSBN with certain modifications that wont be so expensive to build as the Yasen.Tentatively this boat is named as the Husky which should be a basic attack submarine model( SSN) an expanded guided-missile submarine (SSGN) version and an enlarged ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) variant.

  10. Kya says:

    US spies had info on India’s nuclear missiles years before launch – NSA leaks

    The NSA may have known about India’s nuclear-capable Sagarika and Dhanush missiles as early as 2005, newly released documents from the trove obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.
    US spies also likely possessed “significant intelligence” about the bombs in service in India during that period.
    While american agent that gaddar mmsingh the unellected pm of india was bending backwards to agree to american sponsored indo us nuke deal ( really to curb indian nuke capability), the american agents inside India were snooping around to find india’s nuclear bomb capability and capacity.
    Since then India is now firmly under grip of angloanerican empire aka british empire number two where indian Pms are reduced to governors – not even viceroys.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      A friendly advise. There is no fight between you and MMS+Modi, They did whatever they could wrap their heads around and Sri Hari gives the karma fal. Similarly you do whatever you deem fit and you will also get your share.

      Thoda anger management is required sir ji.

  11. andy says:

    Re:”This is a pretty drastic step being contemplated by Russia, and will suddenly and hugely degrade the Indian navy’s sea denial capability, of course, but also crimp our strategic deterrence in many ways, considering the Akulas can hunt down Chinese SSBNs in the Indian Ocean. However, considering how countries value and safeguard their advanced military technology and hardware, Russia’s actions — assuming these will take the course as stated above, are not to be wondered at.”

    Sure as hell the Russians dont want the US to know anything about the Akula,old though they might be,they still will be the backbone of the Russian SSN fleet at least till 2030(maybe beyond that as well).So if they are feeling jittery about Indian Navy’s increasingly close ties with the USN they cannot be blamed and if they take recourse to drastic actions by withdrawing the INS Chakra under flimsy pretexts theres no one to blame.

    Russia cannot compromise the efficacy of its SSN fleet just to massage Indian sensitivity,that would be expecting too much.Unless there are watertight safeguards for the Akulas secrecy followed by concrete actions,underwritten by GOI,INS Chakra in the Indian Ocean maybe history pretty soon.No one but the Russians are going to offer a complete SSN to India,leave alone the technology for building one.So the warning signs are up and hopefully some corrective action is taken with respect to Russian concerns otherwise India may as well kiss any future collaboration on nuclear boats goodbye.

  12. Prof. If push comes to shove can India build a capable SSN in 8-10 years? 10-12? 12-15?

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