This is an IDF analysis of the extraordinary mission and accident of the Russian deep sea exploration nuclear submarine Loksharik AS 12 -killing 12/14 out of 25 in the Arctic, juxtaposed with the superb way Indian Navy tackled a switchboard fire on INS Chakra 1 in the 1989 off Vishakhapatnam extracted from the book Warring Navies ISBN 978-93-5156-638-0 by Ranjit B Rai . But who reads with Wikipedia set to educate the masses ?
Putin has asked defense minister Sergei Shoigu to report back personally about the AS -12 disaster, but IDF asks was it just an ordinary scientific mission? According to media reports, the AS12 submarine can possibly be used to tap into, set up or even sever underwater telecommunications cables. A local journalist first reported from Somoransk and was told to go quiet. The AS-12 is back in its naval base like Chakra limped back in 1989. Indian Navy now has two Fisher UK DSRVs to recover sailors from stranded submarines.
The last major submarine-recovery operation was that of the Russian nuclear boat, the K-141 Kursk that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000. where INS Vikramaditya executed Flying Trials with Russian MiG-29Ks. The Kursk was recovered a year later from 130 metres by a conglomerate of companies led by a Dutch firm. The Kursk was bigger than India’s 2300 ton Kilo INS Sindhurakshak that sank at the South Breakwater in Mumbai’s naval dockyard on 14th August 2013 one day before Independence Day (IDF was shocked doing AIR commentary at Red Fort ) killing 18 of its crew. That night they were preparing torpedoes and missiles for a fully armed War Patrol a submarine carries out once in a commission. INS Arihant will have to do it or already carried out with K15 nuclear tipped missiles if the procedure was followed. Missiles are protected by codes carried by PM called Football in USA, but not sympathetic explosions.
These are dangerous times and good the 2019-20 budget has given Rs 100 lac Cr for five years for infrastructure as military needs infrastructure to save accidents. The Navy arms itself next to Taj and Ballard Estate needs re-thinking ! It is suspected that a torpedo in the weapons compartment of Sindhurakshak exploded and a inert weapon hit the jetty. The cause is yet to be precisely publicized but hopefully lessons have been learnt by junior Navy that operate weapons. Submarines are critical vehicles for war not so in peace and sank more tonnage in WW 2 than ships or aircraft did.
IDF is convinced Russia, China and even France are overtaking USA to build deep sea exploration submarines as discussed at Paris Euro Naval. China has a vessel in the Indian Ocean as deep sea extraction of minerals allowed by UNCLOS 1982 and areas being expanded. The military application of these vessels will also be the ability to cut or interfere with underwater cables to screw up Banking and Command and Control (CIC) of nations. CIC is now dependant on Internet and software defined radios (SDR) through underwater cables and satellites linked to cyber and AI. The Space war to shoot down satellites has begun with nations demonstrating their abilities despite a UN ban on military activities in space.
India too has ability to shoot down satellites and recently a naval officer Radm Mohit Gupta has been appointed to the Defence Cyber Agency (DCA), while Space and Special Forces Agencies and a CDS are awaited with Theater Commands. Sadly the 2019-20 Defence budget of Rs 3 1lac crore ($ 44 bill) is just enough to keep military going. The world gets confused as MOF announces Rs 4.31 lac cr ($ 60 bill) as Defence budget which includes the large pension bill. India adds pension, China removes it to hide expenditure.
In 2008 K-152 Nerpa now INS Chakra Two was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan on 8th November 2008, when a fire suppression system was accidentally initiated. The accident killed 20 specialists and navy crew members and injured 21 others. Since India’s crew of Chakra 2 went to Vladivostok to take over Nerpa they learnt all about it, and she is operating off congested SBC Vishakhapatnam till Varsha base at Rombilli is ready. Fire and explosions of tanks which are filled with air or gas are the fears of submariners. INS Chakra had a fire at sea in 1989.
IDF asks was INS Chakra’s fire in 1989 accident inquiry results revealed to learn lessons. In India lesson learning is not allowed to military as no war records or Boards of Inquiry since the 1962 war are released even to scholars 25 years after. Three days ago a team from Sri Lanka’s premier think tank Pathfinder came with two ex Navy Chiefs and Ex Army Chief trained in India with war experience to quell the LTTE asked when will India and Sri Lanka sit down and learn lessons from Op Pawan ? A fine mature experienced retired Navy Chief was in the chair with many senior Navy too, and young keen researchers with Degrees as maritime is the future !.
Silence followed. Op Pawan is looked at as an Army issue and media reports that currently Army is in throes of Op Allout, planning Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) without Air Force or Navy inputs, planning Colonels to become Major Generals denuding strength of Majors in Army HQ and ECHS has run out of funds and adding Income tax to disability pension so Op Pawan (1987-91) is just blot in junior officers memory when they lost 1400 fine souls from their regiments and no one to blame. It is a chapter in Warring Navies more read in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Extract -,Nuclear Sub INS Chakra-1A Near Miss from WARRING NAVIES Chapter 20.
Capt Alexander Ivanovich Terenov (who served on board and assisted in training for INS Chakra-2 too) in his book, “Under Three Flags”, translated from the Russian by Admiral R N Ganesh, Chakra’s first Captain.
The commissioning date was set in December 1987 at Vladivostok and invitations issued for the ceremony. A sudden Soviet change of heart took place to forbid foreigners on Chakra. The order came from the highest in Moscow. The Indian crew was devastated.
Captain Terenov suggests it was because of US pressure to deny Indians the nuclear boat. Russia had become close to USA with Gorbachov beholden to America. After ten days of wait, and NHQ too, unaware of what had transpired, a dejected Capt Ganesh took a bottle of whisky to Terenov for counsel. Terenov, knowing how
Soviet Russia worked, suggested that only if the Indian Prime Minister spoke to President Gorbachov would the impasse be bridged. PM Rajiv Gandhi was scheduled to visit Moscow two weeks hence. He met Gorbachov and all fell into place. Twenty year old K-43 was hurriedly commissioned as INS Chakra S-71 on 5th January, 1988 in minus 25 degrees C with minimum fanfare with a lunch by Ambassador T N Kaul and dinner by C-in-C Pacific Fleet Admiral G A Khvatov and immediately sailed.
(just like the new Akula Nerpa INS Chakra did in March 2012).
On sailing, the submarine planes for diving seized, precluding diving with frozen snow. The crew ably chipped with axes in minus 25 degrees. The passage was predominately executed under water to achieve high speeds on orders from NHQ. An OPV rendezvoused the boat near the South China Sea when she surfaced for the Singapore Straits passage. She was tailed and photographed and reported by Jane’s Defence weekly. On 3rd February 1988, PM Rajiv Gandhi embarked Chakra off Vishakhapatnam and had dived with the officers and the moustached coxswain (IDF met him working on Sindhukriti in HSL).
The book covers the tribulations of the commissioning of K-43 and how INS Chakra suffered a fire in the switchboard at sea in 1989, when she sank from 40 to 200 feet, losing power. The emergency was superbly controlled by blowing tanks and part power was restored as she bounced up with few injuries from 200 feet. The boat was towed back and refitted by the crew, the Naval Dockyard Vishakhapatnam and Zvezda technicians. The book describes how the three Captains RN Ganesh, SC Anand and RK Sharma along with professional nuclear submariners, operated Chakra safely for the four years of the lease, and demonstrated the capability of the Indian Navy to handle the most complex nuclear technology. IDF adds.
“While India ‘appears’ to have a naval strategy, it does not as yet have a maritime strategy. It will be sometime before the country graduates from being a naval power to a true maritime power.”- Ambassador Shyam Saran, Chairman of India’s National
Security Advisory Board (NSAB) – 2014
A good book like Warring Navies must inform, entertain and leave an imprint on the
mental outlook of the reader. This book attempts to throw arrows for debate on India’s military and maritime strategies and challenges that confront India’s Navy,