Why Russians won't give nuclear attack submarine to Modi

The requirement of its Navy takes priority.

 |  2-minute read |   23-12-2015
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to Russia with a wish-list of defence equipment to buy. The Russians are pretty much willing to sell whatever we want, but one item wont be coming our way for a bit.

It is the Yasen-class submarine, the newest Russian nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine. Based on the Akula-class submarine (like INS Chakra) and the Alfa-class submarines, it is projected to replace Russia's Soviet-era attack submarines like the Akula and Oscar-class. The Russians began building these submarines only in 2011 and can build only one a year at the best.

The Russian Navy's requirement takes priority. They have three more under construction, and one more - Kazan - is expected to join the fleet soon. The Russian Navy has only one of this class of submarine in operation - the Severodvinsk - which has impressed the US Navy as a particularly dangerous foe as it is very quiet and fast.

It seems the Russians are also reluctant to co-manufacture this in India under "Make in India".

India could turn to France, but the new class of Barracuda nuclear attack submarines too are in an advanced stage of development, like the Russian Yasen class. So what they have available is the 1980s' design Rubis class, perhaps inferior to the Russian Akula.

The USA has time and again expressed unwillingness to cooperate in manufacturing or transferring its nuclear powered submarines, as they will not be able to get Congressional approval.

So, that leaves us with only the Russian Akula class, of which we already have one. The Russians have one more available for us immediately. I think we can expect some traction on this for now. And then hope for the best. And to the tender mercies of Anil Ambani who now owns the Pipapav Shipyard.

(This post first appeared on the writer's FB wall.)

Writer

Mohan Guruswamy Mohan Guruswamy @mohanguruswamy

The writer is Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

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