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By Bulbul Singh

15 Jun 06. India and Russia begin negotiations on leasing of the multi-role Akula-II nuclear submarine and four Tupolev-22M3 long-range strategic bombers from Russia during June 19-23 visit of Arun Prakash, Indian Navy Chief to Moscow.

Defence Minsitry officials here say, as the major issue of Intellectual Property Rights on defense with Russia have been sorted out, Moscow will agree to India’s long pending demand for lease of the four TU 22 and Akula class submarine. The Indian Navy Chief will work out the draft agreement during his visit , said the officials here.

India has been negotiating with Russia since 1999 for the lease of the bombers which have a range of about 6,800 kilometers and can carry 24,000 kilograms of bombs or missiles and have a intercontinental reach.

The TU 22 backfire bomber is also capable of performing nuclear strike, conventional attack, anti-ship, and reconnaissance missions. In addition the TU 22 has a midair fuelling capability which will give it a large range and flexibility. Sources in the defence ministry say, TU 22 can be used to strike inside China.

Currently Indian Air Force has MiG 27, SU 30 MKI and Mirage and Jaguar aircraft which can carry nuclear payloads.

The Indian Navy Chief will also work out details on the leasing of the Russian Akula II nuclear submarine for the Indian Navy. In 1988, the Indian Navy leased a Russian Charlie-class nuclear-powered submarine for three years. Besides serving as a training platform for Indian soldiers, the submarine was used for developing indigenous nuclear submarine technologies. Currently, India is building its homegrown nuclear submarine, Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) with the help of the Russians.

The Indian government officially denies the development of a nuclear submarine as it is a classified project. Sources in the Indian defence ministry say the ATV would be ready for trials around 2008-09.

Stalled due to technological hurdles, the 28-year old ATV programme has reportedly made “significant progress” over the past two years.

Involving Larsen & Toubro, the private engineering and military equipment builders in the ATV programme over three years ago, however, had considerably advanced the indigenous nuclear submarine programme. The Mumbai-based conglomerate — one amongst a handful of companies issued licences by the government two years ago to build defence equipment under the new, liberalised, regime to outsource defence needs to the private sector — had been tasked with building the ATV’s hull.

While New Delhi denies the every existence of the ATV project, Russian officials are silent on proffering assistance to the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) on the sensitive but much delayed nuclear submarine programme. The ATV project is so secret that the file dealing with the programme is stored in the defence minister’s office and only a handful of officials are privy to its contents.

Indian Navy also ordered the refit of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshokov, in 2004 for around $800m and the purchase of 16 MiG 29 K aircraft for around $ 650m for the Gorshokov aircraft carrier, in 2004.
Indian Navy officials say, the Indian Navy chief will also work out details for the order of three more Talwar class Stealth Frigates in Russian yard. The Indian Navy has already received three Stealth Frigates from Russia built at a cost of around $300m each.

The second lot of Talwar class Frigates which will be finalized during Arun Prakash visit in June 19 will be fitted with the supersonic anti ship cruise missile BrahMos, an Indo-Russian joint venture. These frigates will have a homegrown defence system replacing the Russian Kashtan.

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