Source: Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre
The temperature is plus 4 Celsius under the ice and minus 10 above it, but it’s somewhat hot inside the robust hull. The crew of the INS Sindhurakshak has already made the revived ship its home and is now taking it south to its home station and combat duty area from the icy embrace of the White Sea.
The INS Sindhurakshak is a diesel-electric submarine of the Indian Navy that underwent interim overhaul and modernisation at the Russian Severodvinsk-based Zvezdochka shipyard. A source in the United Shipbuilding Corporation told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the submarine left factory waters on January 29 and set off on its way to open sea, accompanied by the Dickson and Captain Chadaev icebreakers. From the Russian shipyard, it normally takes the submarine about two months to reach its base site in Visakhapatnam, where the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy is headquartered. This time, however, things are different, because the Indian submarine and its crew are travelling in the icy conditions of the Northern Sea Route for the first time.
The diesel-electric submarine INS Sindhurakshak was built in 1997 by the Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard in St Petersburg for the Indian Navy. INS Sindhuvir, built to the same design, arrived in Severodvinsk the same year for intermediate overhaul and modernisation. It was followed by INS Sindhuratna, INS Sindhughosh and INS Sindhuvijay at three-to-four-year intervals. These submarines are designed to engage enemy submarines and surface vessels and defend naval bases, coast and sea communications, as well as for reconnaissance and patrolling.
The INS Sindhurakshak is the fifth Indian submarine of the 877EKM project built and modernised in Russia. The contract for overhaul and modernisation was signed in June 2010 and in August, the ship arrived in Severodvinsk and was accepted by Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre. Under the contract, the submarine has been armed with Club S anti-ship missiles; more than 10 Indian and imported systems have been mounted on the submarine, including the USHUS hydro-acoustic unit, the CCS-MK-2 communications system and the Porpoise radar installation. The INS Sindhurakshak has also had its cooling systems updated and undergone other operations to improve the submarine’s combat characteristics and safety.
It was set afloat in June 2012 once the ship house operations had been completed. It successfully passed sea trials in the White Sea in November–December 2012 and tested its missiles and torpedoes. According to unofficial information, which was confirmed by Rossiyskaya Gazeta’ssources, both the sea and ground targets were hit at the first try.
The handing-over ceremony was held on Saturday January 26, during India’s Republic Day celebrations. INS Sindhurakshak captain Commander Rajesh Ramkumar signed the official handover agreement and thanked the Russian shipbuilders, equipment suppliers and designers for their teamwork. Zvezdochka General Director Vladimir Nikitin noted the valuable experience in the integration of foreign and Russian naval systems that was accumulated during the project.
“The Indian Navy is our traditional priority partner,” Nikitin said. “Over the last 15 years, we have repaired and modernised five Indian Kilo class submarines, supplied spare parts and equipment and provided maintenance of the ships in India. We are building on our successful cooperation in order to create an effective after-sales service system to maintain Russian-built Indian submarines at their stations.”
Nikitin said he hoped that the shipyard would preserve its reputation for being a reliable and ambitious partner. Zvezdochka has already sent a proposal to the Indian side to carry out intermediate overhauls of Indian submarines, and repair and modernise other Indian vessels.
According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta’s sources, the first of the five submarines modernised at Zvezdochka – INS Sindhuvir (1999) – has been in operation for more than a decade, the standard service time after intermediate overhaul. The other three are on their way and their future is being discussed now. It will be up to Delhi to officially decide, but Severodvinsk shipyard workers, who have made friends with the families of the Indian Navy sailors, hope that contracts will continue.
“The handover of the ship is another stage in the evolution of military and technical cooperation,” says Severodvinsk Mayor Mikhail Gmyrin. “We are happy to see that the families of the Indian sailors temporarily residing in our northern city are engaged in social activities. It is also important that when crews of the submarines repaired at Zvezdochka get back home, our kids will keep writing to their friends.”
Archangelsk Region Governor Igor Orlov, who started his professional career in the shipbuilding town on the White Sea, wished the INS Sindhurakshak a successful voyage to their native shores and handed the crew an icon of the Archangel Michael as a blessing and wish of long and trouble-free service. Renovation has started in Severodvinsk’s Yagra district homes, where the families of the Indian seamen lived not so long ago. The city authorities thus confirm that cooperation with India will continue.
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