Indian Navy’s submarine INS Sindhuratna has been stuck in Russia for several months following its upgrades. The Navy has been working to come up with a feasible plan to bring the submarine back to its home waters reports TOI.
INS Sindhuratna is a Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine that was commissioned into the Indian Navy in December 1988 as part of a batch of 10 submarines acquired by India from Russia between 1986 and 2000.
In 2014, the Indian Navy’s submarine INS Sindhuratna faced an accident when a fire broke out on board the vessel while it was submerged for an operational training exercise.
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The incident resulted in the loss of life of two officers. This accident occurred shortly after another Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, had been lost in an explosion in 2013, which resulted in the death of 18 Navy personnel.
The accident prompted the then Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral DK Joshi, to resign, taking moral responsibility for the mishap.
A few years later, INS Sindhuratna was among the four Kilo-class submarines of the Indian Navy selected for medium refit under a $700 million deal signed between India and Russia.
The Indian Navy currently has seven of the ten Kilo-class submarines it inducted. One Kilo-class boat, INS Sindhurakshak, was lost in an explosion in 2013. Another submarine, INS Sindhudhvaj, was decommissioned in July 2021.
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INS Sindhuvir, which was also inducted in 1988, was refitted at Hindustan Shipyard before it was transferred to the Myanmar Navy as part of a bilateral defense collaboration in 2020.
The refit cum life certification of the INS Sindhuratna were completed at the Zvezdochka yard in Severodvinsk amid the ongoing pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis. The boat underwent repairs and upgrades that not only improved its combat capabilities but also extended its service life by ten years to 35 years.
It is now equipped with a Klub (Kalibr) land attack cruise missile. However, the submarine remains stuck in Russia since then and the Indian Navy is trying to find ways to bring it back.
Indian Navy submarine INS Sindhudhvaj (S56) aboard a heavy lift vessel. (Daniel Ferro/Twitter) Indian Navy submarine INS Sindhudhvaj (S56) aboard a heavy lift vessel. (Daniel Ferro/Twitter)
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The Navy wanted to “sea-lift” INS Sindhuratna on a commercial transport dock ship from the Severodvinsk in Russia to Mumbai in October 2022.
However, the plan to transport the INS Sindhuratna using sea-lift failed due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the western countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These sanctions have deterred commercial transport dock operators from conducting operations in Russia, making it difficult for the Indian Navy to arrange for the submarine’s transportation.
The sanctions have restricted commercial transport dock ships from entering Russian ports, making it difficult to move the INS Sindhuratna from the Severodvinsk shipyard in Russia to Mumbai.
Due to the difficulties caused by the sanctions, the Navy has now decided to explore alternative options for the transportation of INS Sindhuratna. It has put out a tender for the transportation of the 2,441-tonne Kilo-class submarine from Tromso or any other port in Norway.
This means that the Navy is now looking for a commercial transport dock operator who can transport the submarine from Norway to India.
The Indian Navy now plans to send the submarine’s crew to Russia. The crew will sail the submarine to a port in Norway.
Once the submarine reaches Norway, it will be loaded onto a commercial transport dock ship for transportation to India.
The Navy planned transport the INS Sindhuratna to Mumbai by March this year. However, due to the sanctions imposed on Russia and the difficulties faced in arranging for the transportation, the submarine’s arrival in Mumbai could now be delayed significantly.
The delay will hurt the Indian Navy as it’s submarine fleet has been dwindling in recent years.
As per the 30-year plan of the Indian Navy, India requires 18 conventional submarines and six nuclear-powered submarines for an effective deterrent against countries like China, which is increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean Region, and Pakistan, which is set to receive eight AIP-equipped Chinese submarines in the next few years.
The Indian Navy’s sub-surface fleet currently includes Kilo-class submarines, four French Scorpene submarines, four German HDW submarines, and the indigenous nuclear ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.
Although two more Scorpene-class submarines are set to join the Navy, the addition will soon be balanced by the decommissioning of old boats. To counter this, India may go for a repeat order of the Scorpene submarines, recent news reports have suggested.