INDIA DEFENCE CONSULTANTS

WHAT'S HOT? 末 ANALYSIS OF RECENT HAPPENINGS

AKULA FOR THE INDIAN NAVY

By Sayan Majumdar

 

New Delhi, 12 October 2005

Another interesting piece on the media expose that the Navy will get 2 Akula submarines on lease and that training was to commence shortly, was received from Sayan Majumdar. Now that the Scorpene Type 75 contract has been signed, the long awaited deal is a reality. The Scorpene design is based on the French nuclear submarine design and that was a plus for the Indian Navy. This deal was opposed on TV by a former CNS, for its supposed shadiness, as was the Gorshkov deal opposed by another former CNS. However their voices did not seem to count, except that their utterances and writings may have delayed the deals 末 one wonders why senior ex-naval officers do not leave the present Admirals alone and trust them to take the right decisions 末 and enjoy the cake as their predecessors did, except that the cake is now bigger and better! Therein lies another tale...

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash and other dignitaries and media were present for the signing and one wonders if ex-Chiefs were invited 末 the deal is the biggest the Navy has signed so far. The CNS had just returned from a three-day visit to Japan, where he visited the a US Pacific Fleet's Naval Base at Yokusaka and held discussions with the Japanese, who are keen to co-opt themselves in ensuring the security of their energy lanes in the Indian Ocean.

The first two subs will be supplied in kits and will have all French combat and other equipment and SM 39 Exocets 末 thereafter the Indian Navy will be free to choose equipment of its own choice for the follow-on four subs 末 the Navy has ambitions and has hopes to adapt the boats to nuclear propulsion if it is technically feasible. The first boat will be commissioned in 2012 and our good wishes are with the Navy and MDL.

 

Akula 末 Predator of the Deep

By Sayan Majumdar

According to media reports India is all set to get two Akula Class third-generation multipurpose Nuclear powered hunter-killer Submarines (SSN) on lease, with the obvious option to buy them, from Russia. The official formalities may near completion around 200506. According to sources, the recent construction of a training centre for the Indian defence officers in Sosnovy Bor, west of St Petersburg, confirms Russia痴 intentions to lease Akula SSNs to India. The international centre is scheduled to start training 300 Indian Naval officers by mid-September 2005 including Akula crews.

The centre incidentally trains Russian naval officers and houses working marine nuclear reactors and is used to test nuclear fuel and other technologies applicable to nuclear submarine reactors. Thus the accommodation of Indian naval officers at the Centre do indicate far-reaching consequences beyond leasing of the Akula SSNs and possibly aimed at imparting sufficient training and expertise to enable the Indians to develop their own nuclear-powered submarines.

The statement holds more relevance if the Indian Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) is indeed a customised version of Russian Project 885 Yasen/Severodvinsk Class SSN, itself a further development of the Akula Class, with advanced features such as spherical bow sonar, canted torpedo tubes and Vertical Launch System (VLS) for submarine launched missiles. A 迭ussian origin ATV along with advanced features of French Scorpene Class submarines like the SUBTICS automated action information system/combat management system will emerge as a formidable platform for nuclear deterrence.

The two Akula SSNs, one 70 to 85-percent complete and the other 40 to 60-percent complete are awaiting completion at Komsomolsk-on-Amur Shipbuilding Plant. In spite of conflicting reports one of them is reported to be K-152 Nerpa (The Seal) at the final stage of construction and may be destined for the Indian Navy (IN). The Akula SSNs in IN service may be assigned the role of chief Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) units in company of IN aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBG) sailing some distance in front of advancing CVBG as vanguard while another SSN follows-up to protect the rear quarter. To cite a parallel, Akula Class K -461 Volk of the Russian Navy during 19951996 provided ASW cover to Russian aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG) headed by Orel Class aircraft carrier 鄭dmiral Kuznetsov" in its 電istant deployment.

The Russian origin Project 971 Shuka-B Bars Class SSNs are known in the West as the Akula Class after the lead submarine K-284 Akula. A traditional follow-on to Victor III design, the Akula Class SSNs along with Project 945 Sierra Class SSNs for the first time posed a serious challenge to western navies in terms of overall submarine technology. Being true multi-purpose vessels, the Akulas in addition to fulfilling its ASW commitments is also capable of strikes against groups of hostile ships and against coastal installations. From the outset acoustic silence was top priority among Russian naval designers in which the western navies traditionally enjoyed a decent lead. The St. Petersburg-based Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau under the outstanding Chief Designer Georgy Chernyshev developed the Project 971, using a steel hull, and the design was initiated in 1976. Yuri Farafontov succeeded Georgy after his death in 1997.

At 110-meters long (Akula II), the Akula is double-hulled with considerable distance between the outer and inner hulls to reduce the possible damage to the inner hull. The double hull construction also increases the reserve buoyancy of the submarine by as much as three times over that of a single hull craft. Ballast tanks are located between the inner and outer hulls, and limber-holes are provided for the free-flooding sections between the hulls. For silent operation Akula class submarines incorporate limber-hole covers that can be closed to reduce or eliminate this source of unwanted noise. The hull is made of low magnetic steel, and divided into seven compartments, and features a distinctive high aft fin. The broad beam of the Akula Class appears to be related to measures intended to reduce propulsion machinery noise. The broader beam will facilitate isolation of propulsion machinery and its associated pumps and gearing from hull by installing them on an insulated 途aft. Noise reduction efforts include rafting the propulsion plant, isolation of the raft from the hull, and anechoic tiles on the outside and inside of the hulls. It is also reported that active noise cancellation techniques have been installed.

The submarines were built by the Amur Shipbuilding Plant Joint Stock Company at Komsomolsk-on-Amur and at the Severodvinsk shipbuilding yard. Seven Project 971 Akula I submarines were commissioned between 1986 and 1992, and three Project 971 U Improved Akula followed between 1992 and 1995. Three Project 971A Akula II, with extended hull length and advanced acoustic silencing technology, followed these developments. The third, K-335 Gepard, was commissioned Russian Navy in August 2001 and incidentally holds the distinction of being the first Russian SSN to be commissioned in twenty-first century. Classified as Akula III Gepard痴 advanced features allows to classify her as a 3-plus generation SSN in terms of performance characteristics she is very close to fourth-generation nuclear subs. Gepard appears more elongated and slightly 菟ugged on the sides to accommodate barriers for retractable gears. The prominent gondola of the towed sonar antenna mounted on the aft vertical fin appears more compact.

The Akula II is 110-metres long and displaces up to 13,800-tons. It has a maximum submerged speed of 33-knots, thanks to the main machinery that consists of a VM-5 pressure water reactor with a model OK-650B high-density reactor core rated at 190MW with a GT3A turbine developing 35MW driving a seven-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. The operational diving depth is 520-metres that extend to the maximum diving depth of 600-metres. Thus if deployed in a more offensive role, the high underwater speed with a deep diving capability enables the Akula SSN to evade a considerable spectrum of enemy ASW defences by passing beneath them. Surface-launched ASW weapons such as homing torpedoes would take a long time to reach the operating depth of the Akula SSN that the later would by then have passed out of range of the acoustic homing device.

Moreover the Akula retains the capability to approach the permanent thermo cline layers in the oceans to exploit its formidable MGK-503M Skat (Shark Gill) sonar suite with additional flank array extending for about one-third of the hull. The sonar suite provides automatic target detection in broad and narrow band modes in active mode while in passive, listening mode hostile enemy sonar faces risk of detection. The sonar signal processor is flexible enough to detect and automatically classify targets as well as reject spurious acoustic noise sources and compensate for variable acoustic conditions.

The 鍍hermo cline thermal layer in oceans has a major influence on ASW operations as it affects the velocity of sound and in permanent thermo cline (found at depths of 300 to 400-m in equatorial areas and 500 to 1,000-m in sub-tropical areas) the velocity reaches the minimum. This layer of minimum velocity, known as the deep sound channel, has a variety of effects, and it is theoretically possible that a submarine can operate in this deep sound channel, exploiting this effect to achieve very long-range detection. In addition, in later Akulas a number of prominent non-acoustic sensors appear on the fin leading edge and in the forward casing capable of carrying out wake tracking of the enemy surface units under surveillance.

To complement the formidable sensors Molniya-M/Pert Spring Satellite Communications (SATCOM) provides greater situational awareness, critical in pursuit and interception missions of hostile fleet. Russian Akula Class SSN K -154 Tigre under the command of Aleksey Burilichev was reportedly successful of discreetly shadowing a particular United States Navy (USN) Ohio Class Ballistic missile armed nuclear-powered submarine (SSBN) in its 鉄SBN sanctuary at least in one instance.

Akula SSN enjoys considerable stand-off distance as against enemy submarines as its 菟lunge-fly-plunge ASW missiles consists of Novator Tsakra (SS-N-15 全tarfish) and the Novator (SS-N-16 全tallion). The Starfish, fired from the four/six 533-mm tubes, has a target range (inertial flight) of 45-km. The Stallion, fired from the four 650-mm tubes, has a longer range of up to 100-km. Both the Stallion and the Starfish enjoys the choice of a 200kt warhead or a Type 40 torpedo in response to tactical circumstances. For Indian Navy the 91RE1 variant of the in-service Klub family of cruise missiles may be an option. The 91RE1 is designed to be launched from a 533-mm torpedo tube at depths of up to 150-meters while the launch submarine is traveling at up to 15 knots. At the maximum launch depth, target engagement can be at a range of up to 50-km.

For enemy surface units the Akula is a potential menace in her own right. To attack enemy shipping the Akula is armed with two types of devastating 都print queen projectiles. The PJ-10 BrahMos Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM), a joint venture between Indian DRDO and Russian NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPO Mash). BrahMos inherits a low Radar Cross Section (RCS) with an active radar homing seeker to facilitate fire-and-forget launch. Varieties of flight trajectories including sea-skimming or terminal pop-up followed by a deadly dive complicate the task of the adversary. Mid-course guidance is inertial, developed and refined by Indian scientists. A 290-km long flight range with high supersonic (Mach 2.8) speed will lead to lower target dispersion and quicker engagement and higher destructive capability aided by the large kinetic energy of impact. In most of the cases the target warship will be denied sufficient time to react even if alerted. The missile appears to have been developed to defeat the increasing sophistication of ship-based defences comprising of longer-ranged and enhanced flexible phased-array radars in combination with point-defence missile systems, "closed-loop" Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) and smart decoys.

The BrahMos will turn out to be an even more deadly ASCM if the Indian software designers have by now matured the already formidable guidance system of the BrahMos predecessor SS-N-26 Yakhont which has accumulated all the NPO Mash experience in developing electronic systems of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thus in case of a salvo launch, a flock of BrahMos will be able to allocate and range targets by their importance and choose the attack implementation plan. The independent control system will take care of the Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures (ECCM) data, and also the methods of evading the fire of the enemy's air defense systems. After destroying the main target in a CVBG or surface action group, the remaining missiles will destroy the other ships eliminating in the process the possibility of using two missiles on single target.

In addition to BrahMos, the RK-55 Shkval rocket-propelled heavyweight torpedo fired from torpedo tubes will cripple even a 100,000-ton aircraft carrier with a couple of successful hits. The very stealthy nature of Akula SSN means that the imminent BrahMos or Shkavl onslaught will be least likely to be detected perhaps until the 吐inal moment if ever, nullifying any possible countermeasures. In naval circles it is well known and accepted that anti-ship missiles fired from submerged submarines constitute the deadliest anti-ship missile threats of all.

While surfaced the SSN has an air defence capability provided by a shoulder-fired Strela SA-N-5/8 portable missile launcher with 18 missiles. Limitations are obvious here and an anti-aircraft/helicopter missile system that can be fired at hovering helicopters from submerged submarines seems to be obligatory, as recent breakthroughs have reportedly been made in this sphere.

The challenge to the Indian Navy lies will be to retain the 都trategic arm of the Akulas it inducts in its fleet. The Project 971 design attained a strategic nuclear deterrence role around 197880 as the design was improvised to accommodate up to twelve 3,000-km ranged plus 200-kt nuclear-tipped RK-55 Granat (SS-N-21 Sampson) 典omahawkski strategic Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) for precision strike against high-value coastal installations and on specific targets further inland. The guidance system combines inertial-Doppler navigation and position correction based on comparison of terrain in the assigned regions with images stored in the memory of an on-board computer (TERCOM).

The propulsion system is a dual-flow engine located underneath the missile's tail. The Circular Error Probable (CEP) is respectable 150-metres. The missile flies at a height of 200-m at Mach 0.7 to complicate enemy interception procedures. In light of present circumstances the Indian Navy should ask for integration of this particular LACM to her small fleet of Akulas to enhance the nation痴 strategic retaliatory capability. In light of rampant proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles in 妬mmediate neighborhood India is in no position of abiding, albeit not a signatory, Missile Technological Control Regime (MTCR) restrictions in 田ritical spheres. 

Finally it has been reported that in Severodvinsk shipbuilding yard work is progressing on two further Akulas, 鼎ougar and 鏑ynx. If the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is indeed interested in those two vessels, the Indian Navy should also target the same costs notwithstanding. It may be stated with a certain degree of surety that as against a decent price the Russian officials will be content to deliver those two additional Akulas to the Indian Navy rather than to its immediate neighbour, for well established strategic equations.

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