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Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 18, 2014
A baffled Parliamentary panel has asked the navy how could INS Sindhurakshak, a kilo-class submarine, explode and sink within months of undergoing a costly upgrade in Russia. The 2,300-tonne fully-armed boat sank at a Mumbai harbour on August 14, 2013, barely seven months after it was overhauled at the Zvezdochka shipyard, part of the Unified Shipbuilding Corporation.

HT was first to raise questions about the quality of upgrade the warship underwent in Russia before it was handed over to the navy in January 2013. The upgrade was carried out at a cost of more than Rs. 815 crore.

In a report tabled in Lok Sabha Tuesday, the Parliamentary standing committee on defence asked the navy to take steps to reduce mishaps and protect the lives of trained crew --- 18 personnel were killed when the submarine went down.

The panel also asked the force to take measures to safeguard "sophisticated machines." It asked the navy to pinpoint the cause of the accident, as such incidents "would be catastrophic and adversely affect the morale of naval personnel" on other warships.

The Russian-origin warship is still nose-down in water, with the navy recently awarding a Rs. 240-crore contract to a US firm for salvaging the warship.

The Russian shipyard that upgraded the submarine under a 2010 contract had claimed it had installed advanced weapons and systems to enhance the boat's combat capability.

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 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.

After the INS Sindhurakshak accident, defence minister AK Antony had asked the navy brass to "optimally operate" the country's assets and ensure these were not "frittered away."

Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General on Monday picked holes in the navy's refit management, arguing that "considerable delays" in carrying out repairs had led to warships not being available for operational roles.