The sinking of INS Sindhurakshak — the navy’s worst peacetime tragedy — has raised questions on the quality of upgrade she underwent in Russia before the warship was handed over to the Indian Navy this January.
The Russian shipyard that upgraded the kilo-class submarine under a 2010 contract claimed on Wednesday that it had installed advanced weapons and systems to enhance the sub’s combat capability.
But, the navy may have to carry out an extensive review of the overhaul in the wake of the tragedy in which 18 submariners are feared dead, sources said.
“Russian workmanship often leaves much to be desired. We have so far had no problems with the Kilo-class submarines, the first of which was inducted in 1986,” a senior navy official told HT.
Top officials are flabbergasted that the tragedy comes barely seven months after the 2,300-tonne Sindhughosh class warship was overhauled at the Zvezdochka shipyard, part of the Unified Shipbuilding Corporation, at a cost of more than $80 billion (R480 crore).
The mid-life upgrade on the warship — the ninth in a series of 10 Kilo-class undersea killers bought from Russia — was intended to increase the life of the vessel by at least 10 years.
“The navy needs to carry out a detailed assessment of what works were undertaken during the overhaul in Russia. The tragedy has certainly thrown up some critical questions about the upgrade,” former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash told HT.
Prakash indicated the likely causes of the disaster could have their roots in the overhaul. “It needs to be seen what systems were upgraded and what systems were involved in the tragedy,” he added.
The submarine underwent an overhaul there for nearly 18 months. A modern Club-S missile system was installed on the submarine along with more than 10 foreign and Indian systems.
The Russian shipyard has modernised five conventional Indian Navy submarines since 1997.
Two Sindhughosh-class warships are currently undergoing an upgrade at a Visakhapatnam port, with one being docked there for repairs for several years.