The Russia-India submarine tango will blindside the US Navy

13 November 2015 Rakesh Krishnan Simha
Commissioning of Russian nuclear subs in the Indian Navy will generate a huge spinoff for both India and Russia.
INS Chakra

INS Chakra. Source:Anir1uph/
Russia and India – either through design or happenstance – are set to engage the western navies in an interesting game of undersea hide and seek.

Chasing nuclear submarines is how major navies earn their keep. The Russian and US fleets track each other’s subs on a 24/7 basis by listening to the acoustic signatures – a combination of noise emissions – that are unique to each type of submarine.

For several decades the Americans held the advantage as they claimed to have quieter submarines. The Russians closed the gap by the mid-1980s and today their submarines have got the inside track on the US Navy. The net result is this undersea contest has become more intense now and the stakes are a lot higher too.

Unlike surface ships and aircraft, submarines do not have markings or IFF (Identify Friend/Foe) codes that can out them. The only way to identify a sub is through its acoustics. This aspect works to the advantage of Russia and India if both have the same class of submarines.

The signature of an Indian Navy Akula is indistinguishable from the acoustics of a similar submarine with the Russian Navy, making it difficult or perhaps impossible for the Americans to tell one from the other. As more Russian nuclear submarines join the Indian Navy’s undersea fleet, it just adds to the complexity of tracking Russian submarines. The US Navy will have to divert more time, effort, vessels, aircraft and personnel to this increasingly complex job.

The US Navy does not just track the Russian fleets but Indian Navy vessels too. According to a report by the Indian Military Review (February 2014), the American P3 Orion aircraft operating in the Indian Ocean are known to generate data on both Russian and Indian submarines.

Since secrecy is paramount for the survival of submarines – which usually lack self-defence weapons – India cannot risk any country knowing the whereabouts of its second strike element. Hoping the US will not pass on information about the location of Indian submarines to Pakistan or China is not only bad policy but potentially suicidal as well. The wiser option is to achieve submarine synergies between the Russian and Indian navies and blindside anyone who is tracking their fleets.

Reports that New Delhi is in talks with Moscow to lease a second nuclear submarine for 10 years suggests this undersea synergy could be a reality in the coming years.

Akula: Wolf of the sea

The latest submarine likely to be handed over to the Indian Navy will be the K-322 Kashalot, which Russia’s Pacific Fleet had kept in reserve. This is the third time India is leasing a nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia.

The Kashalot belongs to the same Akula II class as the INS Chakra II which is currently on a 10-year lease to the Indian Navy. The 8140 ton vessel has a submerged speed of 30 knots, has achieved a dive of a phenomenal 620 metres and is equipped with eight torpedo tubes. It has an endurance of 100 days with a crew of 73. According to the, the submarine achieved a Russian Navy record in 1991 by trailing foreign submarines for over 14 days without interruption.

No wonder the Indian Navy loves the Akula. “The Akula was built for one reason and one reason only: To kill US Navy ballistic missile submarines and their crews,” a US official told the Beacon. “It’s a very stealthy boat so it can sneak around and avoid detection and hope to get past any protective screen a boomer might have in place,” the official said, referring to the US Navy nickname for strategic missile submarines.

That pretty much sums up why the Akula was a big scare word among western navies during the 1980s. After a brief absence during the 1990s, when the Russian Navy shrank faster than a deflated balloon, these upgraded attack submarines are back, prowling the oceans.

Yasen for India?

If the Akula was a scareword, then the Yasen is a frightful nightmare for its opponents. The cruise-missile carrying boat was designed to target US aircraft carrier strike groups. Considering that India is a former victim of American gunboat diplomacy, the Yasen should be the perfect solution for scuttling any foreign adventurism in the Indian Ocean.

According to the US Naval Institute, “One of the US Navy’s top submarine officers was so impressed with Russia’s new (Yasen) nuclear attack boats that he had a model of K-329 Severodvinsk built for his office. Rear Admiral Dave Johnson said he had the model of Severodvinsk placed outside his office in a common area so that he could look at it every day on his way to his office.”

The 13,800 ton (more than double the size of the INS Arihant), 390 feet long submarine has a maximum “silent” speed of about 20 knots and a maximum speed of up to 40 knots. The sea endurance of these boats is limited only by food supplies.

The Yasen and similar new generation submarines have allowed the Russians to run rings around the Americans in recent years, demonstrating a quantum leap in technology and high levels of seamanship.

According to strategic affairs expert Bharat Karnad, “Despite the vaunted anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the US Navy, a Victor III class Russian SSN….tailed an Ohio-class SSBN almost to its pen in Guam without anybody getting wind of it — that’s how loud the US boomer is in turbulence terms and how little turbulence is generated by the Russian boat.”

He adds: “Russian subs have since the sixties carried electro-optical devices in the sail and the hull to detect turbulence and identify enemy subs by their turbulence signatures. The Yasen can be in the SSGN cruise missile-carrying configuration, or, if India so wishes, it can be modified to carry a mixed ordnance load of conventional cruise missiles and nuclear ballistic missiles. That would be a devastating dual-purpose land attack-cum-strategic targeting weapons platform nonpareil to have in the Indian Navy service. There’s nothing like the Yasen-class with the Chinese Navy.”

India to Discuss Leasing of Russia-Made Submarines on November 2

INS Chakra


India is considering the possibility of leasing a Russia-made Akula II-class submarine, according to serving officer in the Indian Navy Cmdr. Abhijit Singh.

  India will discuss leasing Russia-made submarines at the meeting of the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) on November 2, serving officer in the Indian Navy Cmdr. Abhijit Singh told Sputnik on Saturday.

On Friday, India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar arrived in Moscow to discuss military and technical cooperation within the framework of IRIGC-MTC.

“There will be discussions for the leasing of an Akula II-class submarine. This has been under consideration for some time,” Singh said.

In 2010, India began a 10-year lease of the nuclear-powered attack Akula-class submarine Nerpa. After joining India’s Navy, the submarine was renamed to INS Chakra.India and Russia have enjoyed good relations since the 1960s, underpinned by Russia’s position as New Delhi’s foremost military supplier, particularly in the post-Cold War era.

IRIGC-MTC was established in 2000 to enhance bilateral cooperation in the military sphere. It is co-chaired by Parrikar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

Russia’s Five Most Lethal Submarines as Seen by US Magazine

Borey class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Yuri Dolgoruky

Having recently published lists of Russia’s deadly naval ships and dangerous military aircraft, the National Interest is back with a new best of compilation.

Having recently published lists of Russia’s deadly naval ships and dangerous military aircraft, the National Interest is back with a new best of compilation.

Russia makes every effort to improve its nascent submarine fleet by upgrading Soviet-era models and offering brand new platforms, like Borei and Yasen. Let’s take a closer look.

A file picture taken in Brest harbor, western France, on September 21, 2004, shows the Vepr Russian nuclear submarine of the Project 971 Shchuka-B type, or Akula-class (Shark) by NATO classification , the same type as the Nerpa Russian nuclear submarine
A file picture taken in Brest harbor, western France, on September 21, 2004, shows the Vepr Russian nuclear submarine of the Project 971 Shchuka-B type, or Akula-class (Shark) by NATO classification , the same type as the Nerpa Russian nuclear submarine

Akula-class submarine

Project 971 Shchuka-B or Bars, designated by NATO as the Akula, is a nuclear-powered attack submarine equipped with 40 torpedoes, mines and 12 RK-55 Granat cruise missiles.

First deployed in late 1980s, it can move at an impressive speed of up to 35 knots when submerged, has a maximum operational depth of 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) and boasts an endurance of 100 days.But the Akula’s truly remarkable feature is its low level of noise generation the Soviet and later Russian engineers were able to achieve. An upgraded version, known as the Akula II, was the quietest submarine at the time when it was commissioned, exceeding the upgraded version of the US Los Angeles-class subs.

The Akula remains one of the quietest Russian submarines to date.

The Russian Navy operates over ten Akulas, with one Project 971 submarine, currently known as INS Chakra, being on a ten-year lease in India.

Kilo-class submarine

Project 877 Paltus Kilo-class Submarine
Project 877 Paltus Kilo-class Submarine

Known in Russia as the Project 877 Paltus, the Kilo is what the National Interest referred to as a Cold War classic. It is a diesel-electric powered attack submarine first commissioned in 1982.

The Kilo is fitted with surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes, mines and anti-ship missiles. The class was designed to carry out anti-shipping and anti-submarine missions in littoral waters.

The model proved to be a popular export platform and was purchased by Algeria, China, India, Iran, Poland and Romania.

A diesel-powered Varshavyanka-class submarine during the celebrations of the Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok
A diesel-powered Varshavyanka-class submarine during the celebrations of the Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok

Project 636M

Project 636.3 Varshavyanka is an improved Kilo submarine, boasting higher speed, more advanced stealth technology and extended combat range than its predecessor. The sub was dubbed by NATO a ‘black hole’ since the improved Kilo is nearly impossible to detect underwater.

“A silent killer, the upgraded model is already viewed as one of the quietest diesel-electric submarine models in service,” the magazine observed, referring to the Varshavyanka. It is armed with torpedoes, mines and Kalibr 3M54 (NATO SS-N-27 Sizzler) cruise missiles.

The first three Project 636M subs of the six ordered by Russia’s Ministry of Defense entered service in 2014 and were assigned to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The fourth Project 636M sub, dubbed Krasnodar, was launched in late April. The last two submarines, the Veliky Novgorod and the Kolpino, are slated to join the Black Sea Fleet by 2016.

Borey class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Yuri Dolgoruky
Borey class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Yuri Dolgoruky

Borei-class submarine

The Borei- and Yasen-class submarines are the two platforms designed since the end of the Cold War. The former is a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine designed to replace Russia’s aging Typhoon-class, Delta III and Delta IV subs and intended to serve as the backbone of Russia’s maritime nuclear deterrence.

Yury Dolgoruky Strategic Nuclear Submarine
Yury Dolgoruky Strategic Nuclear Submarine

The fourth-generation Project 955 submarines are equipped with 16 RSM-56 Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles with a range of 8,000 kilometers (nearly 5,000 miles). Each Bulava SLBM is fitted with up to ten thermonuclear warheads.

The Borei-class subs “promise to provide the Russian Navy with a potent long-range capability for years to come,” the National Interest noted.

The Russian Navy operates three Borei-class submarines, the flag ship Yury Dolgoruky, Alexandr Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh. The first two were commissioned in 2013, while the latest one is in active service since December 2014.

The first submarine of the Project 955-A Borei-II class, dubbed Knyaz Vladimir, is expected to enter service in 2017. By 2020, the Russian Navy plans to operate a total of eight Borei-class ballistic missile submarines, three Project 955 subs and five Project 955-A watercraft.

The Borei-class submarines are expected to remain in service for decades to come, at least until 2040.

The first multirole Yasen K-560 Severodvinsk submarine by the pier of the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk.
The first multirole Yasen K-560 Severodvinsk submarine by the pier of the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk.

Yasen-class submarine

The Project 885 multipurpose attack submarines are touted as the most advanced multipurpose watercraft in the Russian Navy. Designed to replace the Akula-class subs, the Yasen-class subs boast a state-of-the-art design featuring a modified hull profile and modernized equipment.

In addition to its 533-mm torpedoes, a Yasen-class submarine is capable of firing cruise missiles from its eight vertical launching systems. It can also carry Onyx and Kalibr supersonic anti-ship missiles or land attack cruise missiles.

“Yasen-class vessels can slip over 600 meters beneath the waves, rendering them an ever more potent threat to Russia’s rivals,” the National Interest noted.

The first Yasen-class sub, known as Severodvinsk, entered service in June 2014 and was assigned to Russia’s Northern Fleet. Four more Yasen-class submarines are currently under construction.In addition, Russia plans to expand its high-end submarine fleet with two new fifth generation nuclear-powered watercraft, known only as an “aircraft carrier killer” and an “underwater interceptor” at the moment.

Both submarines are currently under development.


India to lease second Russian nuclear submarine — media

India is also going to manufacture three nuclear submarines itself

Russia's Project-971 submarine

Russia’s Project-971 submarine

NEW DELHI, December 17. /TASS/. India’s naval forces have made a decision to lease another Russian nuclear submarine, the Times of India daily reports on Wednesday. The submarine in question is the Project-971 Shchuka-B (NATO reporting name Akula) armed with cruise missiles.The first Project-971 submarine, the Nerpa, was leased from Russia for 10 years. It was commissioned in the Indian naval forces in 2012 and got the name of the Chakra.

According to the newspaper, India is also going to manufacture three nuclear submarines itself. Currently, there are 13 submarines in the Indian navy, but only half of them are in operational readiness.

Lethal and Legendary: The Pick of Russian Weapon Sistems

Lethal and Legendary: The Pick of Russian Weapon Sistems

The heavy strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Akula (Project 941). It is armed with the D-19 missile system that includes 20 three-stage solid-propellant ballistic missiles R-39 Variant with 10 MIRV warheads, 100 kilotons each, and a range of 8,300 kilometers. Six Akula-class submarines are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest. With a swimming pool, sauna and gym on board, the Akula is known among sailors as the “floating Hilton.”