Mumbai: 18 crewmen are feared killed on the INS Sindhurakshak, a diesel-powered and world-class submarine, which exploded and sank shortly early this morning at the high-security naval dockyard in Mumbai. “We hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” said Naval Chief Admiral DK Joshi.
The submarine was fully loaded when the explosion took place shortly after midnight; missiles and torpedoes were detonated in the fire. Safety mechanisms to prevent that from happening did not work, the naval chief admitted. An inquiry on the disaster is to be completed within four weeks, he said.
The disaster is thought to be the worst for the Indian navy in over three decades. Defence Minister AK Antony described the sinking as the “greatest tragedy in recent time”.
Here are 10 key facts about the Sindhurakshak submarine
1) INS Sindhurakshak is a Sindhughosh-class diesel-electric submarine of the Indian Navy.
The incident comes a day after India launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier and activated the reactor aboard its locally designed nuclear-attack submarine on August 10.
2) INS Sindhurakshak completed a two-and-a-half upgrade at a Russian shipyard a few months ago.The vessel, which was fully operational with weapons on board, was half-submerged after the fire.
3) The Indian vessel had suffered a similar accident in 2010 in which one sailor was killed while it was docked in Visakhapatnam.
4) The 2,300-tonne submarine was refitted with improved electronic warfare systems, control systems, and integrated weapon control system. Capable of firing cruise missiles at a range of 200km, it had been reintroduced into the Indian navy only in April.
5) With a top speed of knots (35 km per hour) and diving depth of 300 metres, the NATO Kilo-class submarine is armed with Russian missile system Klub-S with 200-km range, SAM launcher, active-passive homing torpedo, Indian USHUS hydro-acoustic (sonar) system and hi-tech radio communication systems.
6) It has a snorting range of 9,700 km and can travel upto 640 km when submerged.
7) The submarine can carry 52 crew members for 45 days without break.
8) Photos on social media sites show a large fireball over the navy dock where the kilo-class diesel-electric submarine was berthed. The incident, the worst ever for the navy’s sub-surface arm, raised memories of the explosion on the Russian nuclear attack submarine Kursk which sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea in 2000, killing all 118 crew members.
9) The blast is a setback for the Navy as India seeks to bolster its military amid a buildup by neighbor China.
10) Indian Navy has a fleet of 14 submarines, including 10 diesel-electric vessels similar to Sindhurakshak. They have a maximum diving depth of 300 meters, a top speed of 18 knots.