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Third nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia on its way to India

NEW DELHI, March 8: India is on course to lease out a second Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia with the two countries hammering out a deal worth almost $3 billion on Thursday, two officials said on the condition of anonymity.

The Indian Navy currently operates one Akula-II attack submarine, called Chakra II, leased from Russia in 2012 for 10 years. The second Akula-II being leased is likely to join the Navy in five to six years and will be called Chakra-III, the officials said. It will be the third Russian submarine to be leased to the Indian Navy.

Defence ministry spokesman Colonel Aman Anand refused to comment on the deal.

“If a second nuclear-powered attack submarine is leased, it would significantly add to the Navy’s underwater domain capability. It will also take us ahead on the operational, tactical and technical as well as eventual indigenisation curves,” said military affairs expert Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande (retd).

He said the Navy’s ability to maintain peace in the Indian Ocean region and having a good measure of underwater domain dominance depended on nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Apart from an Akula-II nuclear-powered attack boat, India currently operates 13 ageing conventional submarines, one Scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari and the indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant, which successfully completed its first deterrence patrol in November 2018. The fully operational Arihant completed the sea leg of India’s nuclear triad, giving it enduring nuclear strike and counterstrike capabilities. The second Arihant-class submarine, called Arighat, was secretly launched in 2017 and is likely to join the naval fleet in 2021.

The Navy will induct its second Scorpene-class submarine Khanderi in April-end, a navy official said. Commissioned in December 2017, INS Kalvari is the first of six Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai, under licence from French firm Naval Group, previously called DCNS, under a ₹23,562-crore programme called Project-75.

The Navy hopes to induct all the six diesel-electric attack boats by 2020. The lease of Chakra II could be extended beyond 2022, said one of the officials cited above. “One hopes that the lease of Chakra II is extended. Ideally, if two such boats are operated, it would be good,” said Shrikhande.

India’s sub-sea power is way behind China’s. The neighbour’s underwater capability is far superior with more than 60 diesel-electric attack submarines and a mix of 10 nuclear attack submarines and nuclear ballistic missile submarines, experts said.

Six more advanced submarines are also to be built under project P-75I under the Make in India initiative to scale up the Navy’s undersea warfare capabilities and counter the swift expansion of China’s submarine fleet.

IAF’s MiG-21 crashes after bird hit in Rajasthan’s Bikaner, pilot ejects

NEW DELHI, March 8: A MiG-21 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Bikaner on Friday. The plane crashed after it reportedly suffered a bird hit.

The plane had taken off from Nal near Bikaner. The pilot is said to have ejected safely.

Bikaner SP Pradeep Mohan Sharma said the MIG aircraft crashed in Shobhasar ki Dhani, 12 km from Bikaner city, news agency PTI reported.

Sharma said police teams have rushed the spot to cordon off the area. No loss of life has been reported.

A statement by the IAF said that the MiG-21 had taken off from the Indian Air Force’s Nal airbase in Rajasthan and that it was on a routine mission.

The IAF statement said, “Today afternoon a MiG-21 aircraft on a routine mission crashed after getting airborne from Nal near Bikaner. Initial inputs indicate the likely cause as bird hit after take off. Pilot of the aircraft ejected safely. A CoI [Court of Inquiry] will investigate the cause of the accident.”

In recent times, the IAF has witnessed a series of crashes involving fighter jets and choppers.

On February 1, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet had crashed during a routine testing flight. Both the pilots in the jet had died after their safety equipment gave way. The pilots were on an “acceptance sortie” of the Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft after it was overhauled by the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Barely a fortnight later, two Surya Kiran Hawks were involved in a collision that led to the death of one pilot. The crash had taken place barely days before the 12 edition of Aero India.

On February 12, a MiG-27 fighter jet had crashed at the Pokhran firing range after taking off from the Jaisalmer air base. The jet was on a training mission. The pilot managed to eject safely from the jet before it crashed.

More recently, on February 27, a Mi17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force had crashed at Budgam in Kashmir. All six IAF personnel on board the chopper were killed. A civilian was also killed in the crash.

The MiG-21 fighter jet has been in the news recently after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a similar aircraft shot down a Pakistani F-16 before crashing in Pakistan.

The MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the erstwhile Soviet Union.

 



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