Moscow: Russia has handed over the much-
awaited nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India on a
10-year lease, boosting the Indian navy`s fire-power.
The Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear submarine had recently
finished sea trials.
"The signing ceremony happened yesterday at the Bolshoi
Kamen ship building facility in the (Far East) Primorye region
where the Nerpa is now based," ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a
senior Russian navy official as saying.
The deal for the submarine, which is being transferred on
a 10-year lease, was worth USD 920 million.
The report said an Indian crew would sail the Akula II
class craft to its home base at the end of January.
"All of the naval tests and performance checks have been
completed," the Russian navy official said.
The submarine, capable of remaining underwater for
months, will be rechristened as `INS Chakra` and it would be
for the first time in more than two decades that the Indian
navy would have a nuclear attack submarine.
When Russia makes the delivery, it will make India only
the sixth operator of nuclear submarines in the world.
The submarine deal had figured during Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh`s visit to Russia earlier this month.
The Nerpa, an Akula II-class attack submarine, had
originally been scheduled for delivery in 2008 but an accident
during sea trials on November 8 that year had forced the
Russian authorities to put it on hold.
Twenty people, mostly civilians, had been killed when a
fire-suppressant gas was released on the Nerpa during
shakedown trials, in one of Russia`s worst naval accidents.
The Akula-II class submarines are equipped with 28
nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000
km. The Indian version is reportedly expected to be armed with
the 300-km Club nuclear-capable missiles.
India had funded the completion of the Nerpa nuclear
submarine at Amur Shipyard before the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991.