Sunday 23 September 2018, 05:43 PM
Third accident on Indian submarine, 5 injured, 2 missing
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 2/26/2014 12:00:00 AM

Serious questions on Indian Naval submarine fleet strength
New Delhi: The Indian Navy’s dwindling fleet of submarines suffered a set-back this morning. Smoke and Fire was reported on board the Russian-origin Kilo class Submarine, the INS Sindhuratna. The 3076 tonne vessel was forced to surface from its undersea journey some 50 miles off the coast of Mumbai and is being escorted into Mumbai Naval harbour. The incident occurred  at 6.30  AM.

Five sailors who fell unconscious and they were airlifted from mid-sea by Naval helicopters and are being treated at Naval hospital INS Asvini, Mumbai.Two Naval officers are missing in the head count. Their fate is not known. The same submarine was involved in a ''minor accident'' in June 2010 when it collided with another Kilo class INS Sindhukesari while a tug boat towing it to the jetty. Luckily no one was injured in that accident but a rudder of Sindhukesari was slighly damaged.

Todya''s is the third accident involving Kilo class submarines since August 2013, or the third in the past six months. Apart from this there have been at least six incidents/accidents on Indian Naval warships in the past six months. All the Kilo class are more than 16 years old and have been refitted.

On August 14 last year the INS Sindhurakshak, another kilo class submarine  had sunk while being docked at the Mumbai harbour, killing 18 sailors. An explosion, that is so far unexplained, possibly caused the accident. The Submarine is yet to be salvaged. In January this year, the INS Sindhughosh, also a Kilo class submarine, faced low tide while entering Mumbai and was stuck for hours before it could sail in.

Notably the INS Sindhuratna, had just been refitted in India and was being tested out at sea for acceptance trials hence was not carrying any weapons or missiles. The Commodore Commanding Submarines (COMCOS) western naval fleet was on board when the accident occurred. 

Though it is will form a part of the probe,  the INS Sindhurakshak also met with an accident after a refit. It had been refitted in Russia while the Sindhurtana had been re-fitted in India. Ironcially when the explosion took place on August 14 last year on board the INS Sindhurakshak, the Sindhuratna was berthed along side, but had lucky escape.
The accidents are not good for India that aims to control the seas between the straits of Malacca lying to its east and the straits of Hormuz lying to its west. The submarine fleet is dwindling and with the sinking of the Sindhurakshak
Possible reason for fire and smoke

One reason is that the fire in battery compartment triggered off the release of the submarine''s Freon gas – used in submarine fire-fighting systems as it makes oxygen scares in and kills the fire. Feron can prove lethal to crewmen if they are not wearing emergency breathing masks. The Sindhuratna incident is the same as the one in 2008 on board the Russian Akula class nuclear-powered attack submarine. It had killed 20 Russian personnel and injured 41 others. The submarine, the Nerpa, was leased to India in 2012 as the INS Chakra.

China surges India falters 

The US Department of Defence in its Annual report to the US Congress “ Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013”, said the Peoples Liberation Army  Navy (PLAN) has 55 submarines. “China continues the production of JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). The JIN-class SSBN will carry the new JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile with an estimated range of more than 4,000 nm”, it said.

India on the other hand is in single digits. At the start of 2013 it had a total of 15 submarines including the nuclear powered INS Chakra one leased from Russia. Before the August 2013 accident Indian Navy had 10 kilo class submarines.  The INS Sindhurakshak is lost, the INS Sindhuratna will undergo proper checks. Besides this, German HDW boats are being refitted and give life extensions. Leaving the Nvay with no more than 6 or 7 operational submarines. The six Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) Mumbai with the help of French company DCNS are running behind schedule and the first one will not be delivered before 2016. Separately,  here has been no decision on building the next six submarines,  a follow order to the Scorpene. There has  been no decision to seek global partners, so far.

The Other accidents


Apart from the submarine accidents, Since August 2013 the Navy has faced bad times and six incidents/ accidents involving its warship. In December INS Talwar, a Frigate collided with a un-lit fishing vessel at night.  In January this year the INS Airavat, an amphibious warfare vessel, had its propeller damaged near Vishakapatnam after which the commanding officer was stripped of his command duties. In another mishap, the sonar dome of the INS Betwa,  was damaged after probably hitting some underwater object. India’s leading minesweeper, the INS Konkan that was undergoing repairs in Vizag when it caught fire and suffered major damage to its interiors. The Pondicherry-class minesweeper was getting a refit at a dry dock when the incident occurred. INS Vipul, a missile boat had to be docked after a breach in earlier repairs.
 
The incidents of sinking of Sindurakshak, fire on board the Sindhuratna  and the Talwar class hitting a fishing vessel are serious in nature

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Third accident on Indian submarine, 5 injured, 2 missing

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