Two Kilo-class submarines of the navy have met with accidents soon after undergoing upgrades to extend their service lives, a worrying trend that the navy is likely to scrutinise in the coming weeks.
The sinking of INS Sindhurakshak last August — the navy’s worst peacetime tragedy — had raised questions about the quality of upgrade the warship underwent in Russia. The submarine exploded and sank barely seven months after it was upgraded at a Russian shipyard.
Now the upgrade of INS Sindhuratna is likely to be questioned. Seven sailors suffered serious injuries and two officers remained “unaccounted for” in an accident on board the INS Sindhuratna, barely two months after the Kilo-class boat underwent a refit at the naval dockyard.
“It is surprising that the INS Sindhuratna was involved in such a mishap after undergoing a six-month refit. Refits are expected to extend life,” a navy officer said.
A baffled Parliamentary panel had last week asked navy to explain how could the INS Sindhurakshak explode and sink within months of undergoing a `815-crore upgrade in Russia.
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.
It asked the force to take measures to safeguard “sophisticated machines.” The Russian-origin warship is still nose-down in water, with the navy recently awarding a `240-crore contract to a US firm to salvage it.
The Russian shipyard claimed it had installed advanced weapons and systems to enhance the boat’s capabilities. The mid-life upgrade was intended to increase the boat’s life by 10 years. It underwent an overhaul there for nearly 18 months.
Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General had last week 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.