Reports in Indian media indicate that a 10-year, $3 billion lease of a Russian Akula class submarine is set to be inked this week under an intergovernmental agreement between New Delhi and Moscow. The submarine in question, which will be dubbed Chakra III in Indian Navy service, is a mothballed hull shipped to Severodvinsk in 2014 as part of an extensive building program. Under the agreement, the submarine will undergo a major buildup and activation of its nuclear reactor and be outfitted with Indian-sourced systems for communications and situational awareness.
India has leased a lone Russian nuclear attack submarine (SSN) dating back to 1988 when the original INS Chakra was brought into service under a three-year deal. The second submarine – in Indian service since April 2012 – arrived following a prolonged refit that allowed a capability gap to emerge. This submarine, Chakra II, was leased under a 10-year deal that may need to be extended in order to allow time for the work-up on the third vessel to be completed by 2025.
Reports indicate that the Chakra II lease may be extended out to 2027.
The lease is valuable to the Indian Navy not only because of the capability of the Russian SSN, but because it allows naval personnel to prepare for work on this submarine type, with more such vessels set to come into service in future years under an indigenous SSN program.
This program received the green-light from the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 18, 2015. The project calls for the construction of six SSNs, the parameters for which remain under wraps, as the project is classified. Navy officials, however, made note in December 2017 that the project had been launched. While design work has begun, the timeline for the program remains uncertain.