Visakhapatnam, April 4 (IANS) The Indian Navy Wednesday inducted a Russian-origin nuclear submarine, INS Chakra, into its fleet, giving its underwater combat capabilities much-needed muscle and becoming the sixth navy in the world to operate such a vessel.
The Akula-II class submarine "K-152 Nerpa" renamed INS Chakra-II is on a 10-year lease from Russia at a cost of nearly $1 billion.
Defense Minister A.K. Antony formally inducted the 8,000-ton vessel with the hope that it will strengthen the Indian Navy.
"India is the strategic hub of the India Ocean region. Peace and stability (in the region) are necessary. India's naval presence is crucial," the defence minister said.
"Induction of the nuclear submarine is to strengthen our national security and maritime security. It will strengthen the Indian Navy to meet any challenge in the maritime security."
India is one of the world's leading defense spenders and the acquisition has increased over the years after heavy military spending by its neighbours - Pakistan and China.
In particular, India has been keen to strengthen its maritime security after China has been moving to fast build up a powerful "blue water" navy.
But Antony denied that the modernizing armed forces, including the induction of the submarine, were aimed at any country or in the pursuit of an arms race.
"India doesn't believe in an arms race. We are not a confrontationist nation. We are a peace-loving nation."
With the induction of the nuclear submarine, India has joined the elite club of the US, Russia, France, Britain and China that operate such vessels.
Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the "induction of Chakra is a major step in (the) direction" of modernizing the force.
"Chakra will increase the operational flexibility of the Indian Navy," Verma said.
India currently has 14 ageing conventional submarines and is in talks for the lease of another Akula-II class submarine from Russia. "There is a proposal for a second submarine but we have not taken any decision," said Antony.
Nuclear-powered submarines have an edge over conventional vessels because they can remain underwater for several months unlike diesel-electric powered boats that have to surface at regular intervals.
The leased submarine would operate with the Indian Navy for 10 years and provide India's sea warfare a thumping capability - not just as an attack and weapons platform, but would also serve as a laboratory for researchers to study the technology of nuclear submarine warfare.
It can also provide cover to the indigenous nuclear-armed INS Arihant that is to conduct sea trials later they year before being commissioned next year which will get operational India's nuclear weapon triad - the capability to fire from land, air and sea.
The newly inducted vessel has a maximum speed of 30 knots and can operate at a maximum depth of 600 meters. With a crew of 73, it can remain underwater for over three months at a time.
The vessel is armed with four 533mm and four 650mm torpedo tubes and the 300-km range Klub-S land-attack cruise missiles, which India deploys on its Kilo-class conventional submarines.
Russian Ambassador in India Alexander Kadakin who was present at the induction function described the vessel as "powerful and ferocious".
"Today is a very special occasion... It is a milestone not only for the Indian armed forces but also a shining example of the strategic partnership between India and Russia," the ambassador said.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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