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 SPECIAL REPORT

 Lethal Punch
 INS Chakra: Owner, Russian Navy. Operator, Indian Navy

 INS Chakra
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By Vishal Thapar
Vishakhapatnam: The 40-day voyage of INS Chakra from Vladivostok to Vishakhapatnam, marking the induction of the Russian-owned Akula-2 class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) into the Indian Navy, was the first demonstration of what India hopes will be a game changing capability in the Indian Ocean Region.
Unseen and unheard, the INS Chakra prowled past the Chinese backyard, several hundred metres below the surface in the South China Sea, during its 5,000 km passage to India. “The INS Chakra remained submerged throughout its passage,” said an elated Admiral Nirmal Verma, the Chief of Navy Staff, unveiling what is perhaps his most lethal weapon, at a formal induction ceremony on April 4 at Vishakhapatnam.
 
As the distinctively hulled, 12,000 ton beast revealed itself at the brand-new nuclear submarine jetty at Vishakhapatnam’s hush-hush Ship Building Complex (SBC) — the elliptical sonar pod at the submarine’s rear completing the signature of menace and muscle at sea — the symbolism was stark. It’s with this capability to stay submerged indefinitely — the duration of patrols limited only by human endurance — that India hopes to dramatically alter its combat potential in the Indian Ocean Region. “The normal length of patrol of an SSN is 70 days, which can even go up to 90 or 100,” a key Admiral told FORCE.
For Captain P. Asokan, the commanding officer of INS Chakra, and his 80-member crew who operated the Russian-built Kilo class diesel-electric submarines earlier, the transformation is dramatic. The Kilos would be gasping for breath during any encounter, forced to surface or snorkel to recharge batteries in the middle of any high-speed underwater manoeuvre. In these crunch situations, the conventional submarine would have to surface within one or two hours of chasing and hunting, exposing it to the enemy, while also losing the adversary.
There is limited room for bursts of speed. At slower speeds, which restrict combat potential, the conventional submarine would need to catch breath near the surface after two or three days, the high ‘indiscretion rate’ leaving it vulnerable to detection, and consequent enemy attack. Sources disclose that the indiscretion rate in India’s Kilo class is 10 per cent, and goes up substantially at higher speeds. The nuclear-powered submarine overcomes this limitation.
 
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