Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Indian Akulas

It was reported on eDefense yesterday that Russia is about to lease two Akula-class nuclear subs to India.

According to Indian Navy sources, some 265 personnel, mostly from Vishakapatnam, were trained in Sosnovy Bor, west of St. Petersburg, for service anboard two Akula-class submarines (referred to as the Bars class in Russia) that India is negotiating to lease from Russia. Officially, Russia has yet to sign an agreement for the lease of two submarines, but the training of Indian Navy personnel suggests that such a deal between India and Russia has already been struck, the sources said, adding that India is also paying for the completion of two additional Akula-class submarines in Russia.

India has been known to be negotiating with Russia, since at least sometime last year, for the lease of two Akula-class submarines at an estimated cost of $36 million per year for each submarine. India is also negotiating for an option to purchase the two submarines, valued at some $550 million. The Akula subs will arrive in Vishakapatnam by next year said one Indian Navy official. They are to be armed with the BrahMos cruise missile, jointly developed by India and Russia (for more on the BrahMos and other anti-ship missiles, see "Cruiser and Destroyer Killers"), and will also be used to train the crew of the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), a nuclear submarine currently being developed by India. All of the major components of the ATV have been produced, and only integration work remains to be done. Thus, an option to buy the Akulas would only be exercised, sources said, if there are problems on the ATV project.

India previously leased a Skat-class (NATO: Charlie-I) nuclear-powered submarine, INS Chakra, from Russia from 1988 to 1991. However, Indian Navy personnel were denied access to information on some parts of the vessel.

It's yet another signal that we're at an interesting point in history.

With the collapse, more than a decade ago, of the Soviet Union, we saw the end of nearly half a century of Cold War -- really the first period that two superpowers faced off without a direct military confrontation. But that doesn't mean they weren't preparing to do so. As we all know, both the US and the USSR built up huge militaries.

But now the Cold War is over. The Soviet Union lost, and its successor, Russia, is hurting and simply can't maintain the military might that the USSR enjoyed. The answer? Sell it off. Even if Russia's armed forces can't afford to buy new weapon systems, there are plenty of buyers out there.

This should disturb not just the US, but any country with a regional rival. Russia is now passing, for instance, 100 Su-30MKK fighters off to China. do you like that, Taiwan? And 50 Su-30MKIs to India? Take that, Pakistan!

With the end of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, we've entered a new era. Instead of the global Cold War that dominated the latter half of the 20th century, it's quite likely we're about to see regional cold wars spring up. Russia's more than happy to sell its military hardware abroad, and the US will have to counter these sales to maintain regional parity. Neither the US nor Russia desires the proxy wars that characterized the Cold War of the latter half of the 20th century, but both would, no doubt, be content to profit from miniature versions of their own experiences over the last half century.


At 3:53 AM, Blogger Bob said...

I find your comments rather simplistic, and in fact downright naive.

Its hardly the US's duty to "maintain" regional "parity" when it comes to tinpot dictatorships like Pakistan. Or for that matter, Russia is merely attempting to have its arms industry survive. Were the sales of eurofighters to Saudi Arabia a blow for freedom and "regional stability"?

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Michael Puttre said...

It seems to me that India's arms purchases in recent years are intended to achieve an ability to project power rather than simply to improve regional standing. Refueling tankers, Phalcon AWACS aircraft, and the top-shelf Su-30 buys push the Indian Air Force into the upper tiers of aviation powers. The Akula nuclear submarines are blue-water weapons probably intended to provide security for its aircraft carriers and also to enable Indian power to be felt in distant oceans. This seems only natural for an ascendant world power such as India.


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