India Leases Russian Nuclear Guided Missile Sub

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2003

In early December, sales of antacids soared in Pakistan upon the report in The Indian Express that New Delhi had agreed to lease a nuclear cruise missile submarine (SSGN) from Russia as part of a three year arms deal. The sale of the Russian-made aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, announced earlier this year, also was expected to be wrapped up. Such a lease would complement India’s existing airplane and land-based nuclear missile capability.

The submarine is likely to be one of two classes. The first is one of the two Project 949A (NATO code name: Oscar-II) submarines that have been decommissioned by Russia. Nine remain active with the Russian Navy and the twelfth -- Kursk -- sank in a highly publicized incident when a torpedo being tested exploded aboard. Designed in the 1980s to sink US Navy carrier battle groups, the Oscar-II carries – among other weapons -- the SS-N-19 “Granit” anti-ship cruise missile (NATO code-name: Shipwreck), which has a range of 300 miles. The other likely lease candidate is a Project 971 sub (NATO code-name: Akula), an exceptionally quiet vessel. Russia has 14 of these, though it is unknown if all are currently serving. This class also carries the Granit anti-ship missile, as well as SS-N-15 and SS-N-16 dedicated anti-ship missiles.

The Indian navy has about 18 submarines, some armed with SS-N-27 “Klub” anti-ship missile, which has a range of 180 miles.