Return to Sender: India Rejects Kilo/Klub Sub & Missile Upgrades

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Sindhugosh Class(click to view full) Russia’s Type 877 Kilo Class diesel-electric submarines have gained a reputation as extremely quiet boats, and are in service with Russia (24), China (2), India (8), Iran (3), Poland, Romania and Algeria. India’s Type 877EKM Sindhugosh Class submarines [S55-S62] began to travel to Russia for refits in 1997, with S58 […]
SHIP SSK Kilo Sindhugosh Class Launch

Sindhugosh Class
(click to view full)

Russia’s Type 877 Kilo Class diesel-electric submarines have gained a reputation as extremely quiet boats, and are in service with Russia (24), China (2), India (8), Iran (3), Poland, Romania and Algeria. India’s Type 877EKM Sindhugosh Class submarines [S55-S62] began to travel to Russia for refits in 1997, with S58 INS Sindhuvir as the first candidate. A German-designed, Indian-built main battery has replaced the Russian batteries in all vessels, and India’s submarines have also received either a Russian upgrade package of missiles, sonar, and machinery & weapon control systems, or India’s indigenous Panchendriya package. The goal is to bring them closer to parity with the more advanced Type 636 Improved Kilo Class variant – S65 INS Sindhushastra, and possibly S63 INS Sindhurakshak, are already rumored to be at or close to that level.

Now a serious incident has put a brake on the refit program, as India has returned S62 INS Sindhuvijay to its Russian contractor, citing unacceptable performance with its new sub-launched Klub missiles. With the $1+ billion Admiral Gorshkov carrier refit already in trouble, and Russia making hostile foreign policy moves, the last thing the relationship needs is another problem – but that’s what it has.

Klub-S 3M-54E1 Ad

Klub-S 3M-54E1
(click to view full)

Sindhugosh Class Boats from S58 INS Sindhuvir onward include a 9M36 Strela-3 (SA-N-8) surface-air missile launcher placed in the fin, which can be used when the submarine is surfaced. This armament complements the sub’s capacity for 18 heavyweight torpedoes. Upgraded subs will swap in up to 5 of OKB Novator’s subsonic Klub-S 3M-54E1 (SS-N-27 Sizzler) anti-ship missiles, with a 220km range. This anti-ship missile capability is a new addition to India’s submarine force, and is the centerpiece of India’s ‘Improved Sindhugosh Class’ efforts as it multiplies the submarines’ effectiveness by several orders of magnitude. The forthcoming SSK Scorpene Class/ Exocet combination purchased from France will also have missile capabilities.

The Kilo Class boats’ mid-life refit is conducted by Zvyozdochka’s Onega Research & Development Technological Bureau (ORDTB) in in Severodvinsk, Russia. In addition to the Klub-S, it also involves a complete overhaul of the submarine, including its hull structure, as well as improved control systems (Lama-ER, Palladij-M), sonars (MGK-400EM?), electronic warfare systems, and the AICS (Automated Information & Control system) integrated weapon control system. The upgrades reportedly costs roughly $80 million per boat.

Boats with the Panchendriya package, meanwhile, are equipped with an Indian sonar (USHUS) and fire control system designed by Bharat Electronics Limited and the Indian Navy, and the CCS-MK radio communications system, in place of the original or upgraded Russian versions. All remaining submarines after S55 INS Sindhugosh are scheduled to receive it.

The first 2 Type 877EKM Sindhugosh Class submarines were refitted at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, Russia. S58 INS Sindhuvir completed a 2-year mid-life refit in April 1999, and S57 INS Sindhuraj followed. S60 INS Sindhukesari was the first to complete a refit in Zvyozdochka Shipyard under a 2001 contract, and S59 INS Sindhuratna followed and returned to India in early 2003. S55 INS Sindhugosh was the 3rd submarine to complete her refit at Zvyozdochka, and the first to receive the Indian-designed Panchendriya package; she returned to India in late 2005.

S62 INS Sindhuvijay is the 4th submarine to be refitted at Zvyozdochka, and the 2nd to receive the Panchendriya package. Which brings us to the issue at hand.

Klub-S 3M-14E Display

Klub-S 3M-14E
(click to view full)

On July 6/06 India’s Cabinet added a new wrinkle and approved the purchase of 28 Klub-S 3M-14E cruise missiles, at a cost of Rs 844.58 crores (about $184 million). This subsonic land-attack variant would give Indian submarines land attack capabilities for the first time. Unfortunately the Klub 3M-14E, or its interface with India’s Panchendriya package, appears to be the problem in this case.

S55 INS Sindhugosh is reportedly the first submarine to receive this refit (though the timelines don’t match), and S62 INS Sindhuvijay the second. INS Sindhuvijay was handed back to the Indian Navy on May 6/07, after arriving at Zvyozdochka’s shipyard in Severodvinsk in 2006 for upgrades.

Then trials began for the upgraded submarine. In 6 consecutive, pre-delivery test firings between September – November 2007, the SS-N-27 Klub missiles failed to find their targets. In response, India has withdrawn the 50-man crew sent to sail back with the submarine, and told Zvyozdochka ORDTB that the problem must be fixed before it takes delivery. Indian Naval officials reportedly said it would take another year to rectify the defects, and prove the fix in firing trials.

The INS Sindhugosh reportedly completed its Klub-S 3M-54E1 firing trials successfully in October 2005, before rejoining the fleet and finding itself in an accident. This leaves the cause something of a mystery, unless the missiles being fired were land-attack 3M-14Es, or the upgrade itself was faulty.

Additional Readings

* IBN (Jan 13/08) – India refuses upgraded submarines from Russia.

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