Sunday, July 26, 2009

N-submarine to give India crucial third leg of nuke triad

VISAKHAPATNAM: There’s still a long way to go for INS Arihant to become fully-operational.
“Each and every system has to be tested and flushed clean. It will take four sets of flushing and a year before the miniature 80 MW nuclear reactor, and its containment vessel fitted in the submarine’s hull, attains criticality,” said a senior officer connected with the ATV (advanced technology vessel) project.

Moreover, at present, it will be armed with only the 700-km range two-stage K-15 SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), which pale in comparison to the well over 5,000-km
range missiles of the US, Russia and China.

The Chinese fleet of 62 submarines, with at least 10 of them nuclear-powered, for instance,
is readying itself for its new JL-2 SLBM, which has a strike range of over 7,200-km, capable
of rattling even the US. India is still some distance away from the extended range K-5
missile with a 3,500-km strike range.

Be that as it may, India with INS Arihant has taken a big leap forward towards developing
the all-important third leg of its nuclear triad — the ability to fire nukes from the land, air and sea. The first two legs, in the shape of fighters like Mirage-2000s jury-rigged to deliver nuclear warheads and the Agni series of rail and road mobile missiles, are already in place.

What makes a nuclear submarine the most preferred option is that it’s extremely difficult to
detect and target by an adversary. Unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines, a nuclear-powered submarine can operate underwater for unlimited periods of time. This is especially important for a country like India, which has a declared no-first-use nuclear doctrine and, hence, must have a survivable and lethal second-strike capability to retaliate against a conceivable first pre-emptive strike by an enemy.

The PM clarified, “We do not have any aggressive designs, nor do we seek to threaten anyone.” He added, “We seek an external environment in our region and beyond that which is conducive to our peaceful development and the protection of our value systems. Nevertheless, it’s incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country and to keep pace with technological developments worldwide. It has been rightly said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Obliquely pointing to the two more ATVs already sanctioned by the government under a budget
of around Rs 30,000 crore and much bigger SSBNs after them, the PM said the “lessons learnt
from this launch” would enable the ATV programme to “achieve better results in the coming years”.

Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, said INS Arihant was a “significant step” towards
a potent and credible second-strike capability. The PM, Antony, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh
Mehta, DAE chief Anil Kakodkar, ATV director-general Vice-Admiral (retd) D S P Verma praised Russia for their “consistent and invaluable cooperation” in India’s nuclear submarine

What was left unsaid was that India would also get an Akula-II class nuclear submarine, the
12,000-tonne ‘K-152 Nerpa’, on a 10-year lease by end-2009 as part of a secret contract
signed with Russia in January 2004, along with the package deal for refit of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and MiG-29K fighters. India’s eventual goal is to field three SSBNs of its own much before 2020.

(Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Glaring lapses in Gorshkov, Scorpene, Hawk defence deals: CAG

NEW DELHI: Sleazy wheeling and dealing, huge delays and financial irregularities continue to pervade all defence deals. The Comptroller and Auditor General has now hammered the defence establishment for glaring lapses in the two biggest naval projects — acquisition of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and indigenous construction of six French Scorpene submarines.

This comes even as India under Russian pressure is getting ready to shell out almost $2 billion (Rs 9,680 crore) over and above what was initially a `fixed price contract' of $974 million for Gorshkov's refit, while the Rs 18,798-crore project to construct six Scorpenes at Mazagon Docks has slipped two years behind schedule, as first reported by TOI.

A senior CAG official, in fact, dubbed the Gorshkov deal as the "biggest defence mess-up" ever, stopping just short of calling it a "scam". ``The defence ministry did not provide us with full cooperation and access to documents for Gorshkov. As for the Scorpene project, undue favour and financial advantage was shown to the French vendor,'' he said.

In its latest report tabled in Parliament on Friday, the nation's auditing watchdog also punched holes in several other major defence projects, including the Rs 8,120-crore project for 66 British Hawk AJTs (advanced jet trainers). Interestingly, this also comes at a time when India is negotiating a follow-on order for 57 more Hawks.

While the desperate need for an aircraft carrier, a modern submarine fleet and AJTs to train rookie pilots cannot be overstated, what the CAG report underlines is a sordid saga of squandering away of public money, without even a hint of long-term strategic planning, whichever be the political dispensation in charge.

If the earlier NDA regime inked the initial $1.5-billion package deal for Gorshkov and the Hawk AJT contract in the run-up to the 2004 general elections, the UPA government in its first avtaar finalised the Scorpene project in October 2005, amid swirling allegations of kickbacks.

Coming down particularly heavily on the Gorshkov affair, the CAG report said, ``Indian Navy is acquiring a second-hand refitted carrier that has half the life span and is 60% more expensive than a new one.''

Originally meant to plug the `five-year carrier gap' in the Navy's capabilities from 2007 to 2012, Gorshkov is still a `high-risk' proposition since its delivery acceptance trials may not be completed even by 2012, it added.

Russia, as reported earlier, is demanding a whopping $2 billion more over and above the initial $1.5 billion contract of January 2004, under which the carrier refit was pegged at $974 million and the rest earmarked for 16 MiG-29K fighters to operate from its deck.

The CAG report pointed to a 2004 naval assessment that a new aircraft carrier, with a life of 40 years, would cost $1,145 million and take 10 years to build.

Gorshkov, in turn, would run for only 20 years. ``The acquisition cost has more than doubled to $1.82 billion in four years,'' said CAG, taking the $1.2-billion figure demanded by Russia in 2007 into account.

Listing out Gorshkov's `limited operational capabilities', CAG in particular expressed worry that a close-in weapon system — to detect and destroy incoming hostile missiles and aircraft — would be fitted on it only during its first refit in India around 2017.

As for the Rs 18,798 crore Scorpene project, under which the six submarines were to be delivered between 2012 and 2017, CAG blasted the government for taking nine years to finalize it despite Navy's depleting underwater combat force-levels.

Navy's projections show it will be left with only nine out of its present fleet of 16 diesel-electric submarines — 10 Russian Kilo-class, four German HDW and two virtually obsolete Foxtrot — by 2012. ``This would lead to serious operational ramifications,'' said CAG.

The government's delay in finalising the Scorpene project led to increase in its costs by Rs 2,838 crore. ``The submarine design selected has also not proven its efficacy in any other navy,'' it said.

``Moreover, the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor of a minimum of Rs 349 crore, besides other unquantifiable benefits,'' it added.

As reported earlier, the project has been dogged by some controversy, with allegations of kickbacks made in the October 2005 contracts signed with two French companies — Rs 6,135-crore with M/s Armaris (a DCN-Thales joint venture) for transfer of technology and construction design, and Rs 1,062-crore with M/s MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles.

"Large concessions in respect of warranty, performance bank guarantee, escalation, arbitration, liquidated damages, agency commission were bestowed on the vendor," said CAG.

Similarly, CAG rapped the government for taking 22 years for finalising the Rs 8,120 crore project to acquire 66 Hawk AJTs, which were sorely needed to help train IAF rookie pilots on the intricacies of combat fighter jet flying and reduce crashes.

It also pointed out that the contract was concluded with BAE Systems in a single-vendor situation, without reviewing the `air staff requirements' laid down in 1987, as also slippages in delivery schedules, pricing anomalies in supply of spares and the like.
The Gorshkov Saga

* Mid-1990s: Negotiations on the partly-burnt 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov between India and Russia begin. Russia touts it as `a free gift' to India, with the condition that India will pay for its refit and the fighter jets to operate from its deck

* January 2004: India and Russia finally ink $1.5-billion package deal for Gorshkov, which includes $974 million for its refit and the rest for 16 MiG-29K fighters. Gorshkov to be delivered by August 2008

* Mid-2007: Russia demands additional $1.2 billion for refit over and above the $974 million, and pushes back delivery to December 2012. India panics, sends teams to inspect warship and negotiate. Both sides agree refit work `grossly underestimated' earlier. India pays advance of $250 million

* 2008: Russia now wants $2 billion more, over initial $974 million figure, for refit. By now, India has paid $500 million as advance. It renames Gorshkov as INS Vikramaditya

* 2009: Flurry of negotiations, with India paying another $102 million and trying to get overall refit cost pegged closer to $2.2 billion instead of $2.9 billion. Fresh refit contract likely to be sealed by August. Delivery will be delayed beyond Dec 2012

Why is Gorshkov needed?

Gorshkov forms a crucial part of India's plan to have two operational `carrier battle-groups' by the middle of the next decade. The country's solitary and ageing 28,000-tonne carrier INS Viraat is currently undergoing another life-extension refit to ensure it can run at least five more years. Moreover, the delivery of the 37,500-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier being built at Cochin Shipyard is likely to take place only by 2014-2015 or so.

MOD contention: A new aircraft carrier of Gorshkov's size and displacement would cost around $4 billion. A carrier is not available off-the-shelf and takes at least 10 years to build. After extensive refit, Gorshkov will run for another 30 years.

CAG: At best, Navy will be acquiring, belatedly, a second-hand ship with a limited life span of 20 years by paying significantly more than what it would have paid for a new carrier. Moreover, Gorshkov will not have a close-in weapon system against incoming missiles and aircraft till her first refit in India in 2017.

Refit work on Gorshkov

Lying berthed at the Sevmash shipyard for over 12 years, ongoing work on Gorshkov entails removal of the huge missile launchers on the bow to build a ski-jump at a 14.3 degree angle for MiG-29Ks, apart from new-generation communication, air defence and other weapons, including new missile systems. A lot of equipment on the 283-metre long carrier like cables, steel, motors, turbines, boilers and the like also needs to be completely replaced.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bulava missile will without doubt enter service - Russian Navy

MOSCOW, July 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile will enter service with the Navy despite a series of failed test-launches, the first deputy chief of the Navy General Staff said on Saturday.

On July 15, a Bulava SLBM self-destructed after its first stage malfunctioned when it was fired from the submerged Dmitry Donskoi strategic nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea.

"We are committed to this missile flying," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Six of the 11 test launches of the Bulava have ended in failure. The launches were temporarily suspended and the missile components were tested in the labs after a series of previous failures.

Burtsev said the cause of the latest failure was not a human error, but most likely a technical problem.

"The submarine crew painstakingly accomplished all set tasks," he said.

The admiral added that the Bulava test launches from the Dmitry Donskoi will continue in the near future, and the missile will be later tested on the Yury Dolgoruky strategic submarine, the first of the new Borei class vessels.

The Russian military expects the Bulava, along with Topol-M land-based ballistic missiles, to become the core of Russia's nuclear triad.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30) SLBM carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). The three-stage ballistic missile is designed for deployment on Borei-class nuclear-powered submarines.

(courtesy: RIA Novosti)

Russia's new nuclear sub completes first round of sea trials

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti) - Russia's newest Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, has completed the first round of sea trials and is returning to a shipyard in northern Russia, the Sevmash plant said on Friday.

Sea trials of the submarine, which is expected to be armed with new Bulava sea-based ballistic missiles, started on June 24 in the White Sea.

"A team of workers and submariners has successfully completed the set tasks," Sevmash general director Nikolai Kalistratov said.

He added that the Yury Dolgoruky would still have to pass a number of sea trials later this year to test equipment and performance levels.

The vessel is 170 meters (580 feet) long, has a hull diameter of 13 meters (42 feet), a crew of 107, including 55 officers, a maximum depth of 450 meters (about 1,500 feet) and a submerged speed of about 29 knots. It can carry up to 16 ballistic missiles and torpedoes.

The construction cost of the submarine totaled 23 billion rubles (about $713 mln), including 9 billion rubles ($280 mln) for research and development.

Two other Borey class nuclear submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, are currently under construction at the Sevmash plant and are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011. Russia is planning to build eight of these submarines by 2015.

According to Navy officials, fourth-generation Borey class nuclear-powered submarines will form the core of Russia's fleet of modern strategic submarines, and will be deployed with Russia's Northern and Pacific fleets.

(courtesy: RIA Novosti)

Friday, July 17, 2009

India set to launch nuclear-powered submarine

NEW DELHI: Fifty-four years after the world's first nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus took to the ocean and distance records thereafter, India's long hunt for its own N-sub has finally entered the last lap.

Sources say India's first nuclear-powered submarine, built under the top-secret ATV (advanced technology vessel) project, will be 'launched' for 'preliminary trials' at the shipbuilding centre at Visakhapatnam naval dockyard around 10 days from now.

In fact, if things go as planned, it will be PM Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur who will break the 'auspicious' coconut against the ATV hull on July 26 to mark India's entry into the exclusive club of US, Russia, China, France and UK, which design and operate nuclear submarines.

Extensive sea trials will, of course, have to follow after the first of the three approved ATVs, designed to carry a miniature 80MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) and its containment vessel in the hull, is put in the water by flooding the dry dock at the naval dockyard.

"It will take a minimum of two years before the first 6,000-tonne ATV can become fully operational," said an official. Nevertheless, it will constitute a big step towards India's endeavour to build a 'credible nuclear weapon triad' — the capability to fire nukes from air, land and sea.

India does have fighters like Mirage-2000 jury-rigged to deliver tactical nukes as well as nuclear-capable Agni ballistic missiles. But airbases and missile launch infrastructure can conceivably be taken out with a crippling first-strike by an enemy. This is where the triad's third leg comes in, especially for a country like India which has a declared no-first-use nuclear doctrine.

A nuclear submarine, whose reactor usually needs to be refuelled only after a decade or more, provides a difficult-to-detect-and-target platform for launching punishing retaliatory nuclear strikes.

Even US and Russia have ensured that two-thirds of the strategic warheads they eventually retain, under arms reduction agreements, will be in the shape of SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles).

Interestingly enough, India's first ATV is to be named INS Arihant (destroyer of enemies). Incidentally, defence minister A K Antony earlier this year declared the ATV project was in the "final stages now". This was indeed a rare admission because even existence of the project, first conceived during Indira Gandhi's reign as PM in 1970 but which really got going only in the mid-1980s, has been officially denied in the past.

With a massive Rs 30,000-crore funding, it still remains largely a 'black' project even 11 years after India came out of the nuclear closet with the Pokhran-II tests in 1998.

But while a formidable weapon, a nuclear-powered submarine by itself does not give strategic deterrence. For that, ATV needs to be armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic or cruise missiles.

So, DRDO has been concurrently working on the equally hush-hush Sagarika project since the mid-1990s, under which the 700km range K-15 missile has been tested from submersible pontoon launchers till now. The next challenge is to test-fire the K-15 missile from the ATV.

Moreover, with US, Russia and China fielding over 5,000km range SLBMs, Indian scientists are also working on an SLBM variant of the 3,500km Agni-III missile. For a country which had build only two diesel-electric German-origin HDW submarines at Mazagon Docks in 1992-94, constructing a nuclear submarine was never going to be easy.

Building a SSBN or a "boomer", after all, is an incredibly complex process, with marine, nuclear and missile technologies all being integrated into a holistic whole. ATV's meandering saga has extended from Vishakapatnam dockyard, where the basic submarine hull and structure have been fabricated, to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, where the PWRs have been built and tested, apart from several other secretive facilities chipping in with their expertise.

Designing the miniature nuclear reactor, fuelled by highly enriched uranium, was obviously one of the main hurdles, with initial designs by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre failing to work. Then, the nuclear technical expertise of Russia and some others was sought to overcome the technical roadblocks. Now, with the ATV launch finally happening, the defence establishment is keeping its fingers crossed. The eventual aim is to field three SSBNs well before the next decade ends.

(Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lada-Class Submarine...

AMUR-950 Design
AMUR-1650 Design

The Russian Navy's Project 677 (Lada) is a submarine class designed by the Russian Rubin Design Bureau. The class is sometimes referred to as the Saint Petersburg (or Sankt Peterburg) class, after their lead ship. A program to develop a "fourth generation" diesel-electric submarine, it produced a highly improved version of the Project 636 Kilo class with much quieter, new combat systems, and air-independent propulsion.

St. Petersburg began initial sea trials on 29 November 2005.

The Lada-class diesel submarine launched in October 2004 is the best in the class featuring virtual silence, powerful missiles and torpedoes, and sophisticated sonar equipment. The Admiralty Shipyard is building another three Lada-class submarines, and plans to launch between four and six of them by 2015.

Several less capable variants — like the Project 1650 class (named for the Amur river) — have been designed for export.

Russian Newest Borei-Class SSBN Submarine "YURY DOLGORUKIY"

Borei-Class Design
Yuriy Dolgorukiy

The Borei class (or Borei; Russian named after Boreas, the North wind) is a type of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine produced and operated by Russia. It is intended to replace the Delta III and Typhoon class in the Russian Navy.

Work on the first unit of the Borei class (officially designated Project 935) started in 1996. A new submarine-launched ballistic missile was developed in parallel, called the R-39UTTH "Bark". However, the work on this missile was abandoned, and a new missile called the Bulava-30 was designed. The submarine needed to be redesigned to accommodate the new missile, and the project name was changed to Project 955. The vessels are being built at the Northern Machinebuilding Enterprise (Sevmash) in Severodvinsk, and were designed by Marine Equipment Design Bureau (Rubin). Because of the failure of several Bulava test launches, some experts have suggested that the Borei submarine could instead be armed with R-29RMU Sineva missiles. The Sineva is already in active duty on the Delta IV class submarine.

The Borei is claimed to represent the state of the art in submarine design, incorporating characteristics that make it superior to any submarine currently in service, such as the ability to cruise silently and be less detectable to sonar. Advances include a compact and integrated hydrodynamically efficient hull for reduced broadband noise and the first ever use of pump-jet propulsion on a Russian nuclear submarine. Costing some $890 million USD, Borei is approximately 170 metres (560 ft) long, 13 metres (43 ft) in diameter, and has a maximum submerged speed of at least 46 kilometres per hour (25 kn; 29 mph). Smaller than the Typhoon-class, the Borei was initially slated to carry the same number of missiles (20) but has been forced to sacrifice 4 missiles due to the increase in mass of the 45-ton Bulava SLBM (a modified version of the Topol-M ICBM[citation needed]) over the proposed R-39UTTH "Bark".


The launch of the first submarine of the class, the Yury Dolgorukiy, was scheduled for 2002 but was delayed because of budget constraints. The vessel was eventually rolled out of its construction hall on 15 April 2007 in a ceremony attended by many senior military and industrial personnel.The Yuriy Dolgorukiy was the first strategic missile submarine to be launched in the seventeen years since the end of the Soviet era; in fact, it was the first Russian (rather than Soviet) vessel. Currently, there are two more Borei class submarines under construction, named Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh. The planned contingent of twelve strategic submarines is expected to be commissioned within the next decade (five "Project 955" are planned for purchase through 2015).

Although the Yuriy Dolgorukiy was officially rolled out of its construction hall on 15 April 2007 the submarine was not put into the water until February 2008. By December 2008 it had yet to be armed with Bulava missiles and is therefore not fully operational, although ready for trials at sea on 24 October 2008. On November 21 2008 the reactor on the Yuriy Dolgorukiy was activated and on 19 June 2009 begin its sea trials in the White Sea after having some minor problems with its nuclear reactor.