Monday, February 23, 2015

Indian Navy submarine collides with fishing boat

INS Sindhughosh collides with fishing boat
INS Sindhughosh collides with fishing boat

NEW DELHI: In yet another accident in the Navy, a Russian-origin Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhughosh suffered some damage when a fishing boat hit its periscope during a special operation off the western coast late on Thursday night.

The 3,000-tonne submarine INS Sindhughosh, which was participating in the major naval exercise Tropex (Theatre Readiness Operational Level Exercise) in the Arabian Sea, was at "periscope depth" when the incident took place in the intervening night of Thursday-Friday.

"The submarine was practicing 'special boat section' operation during which divers swim out of its torpedo tubes with a Gemini boat to carry out a covert land operation on land. It was pitch-dark when the operation was being carried out close to the coastline, south of Mumbai," said an official.

"The fishing boat hit the submarine's periscope without any warning. The submarine surfaced and then made its way to the naval dockyard at Mumbai, where its damaged periscope will be repaired. It's an occupational hazard but such exercises have to be carried out," he added.

While this seems to be more of an inadvertent mishap, around 40 naval officers are in the dock — most of them facing court martial — for the string of warship mishaps in just the last couple of years, as reported earlier by TOI.

The captain of another Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuratna, for instance, is now facing a general court martial (GCM) for the mishap on board his submarine, which killed two officers, injured several sailors and proved to be the final trigger for Admiral DK Joshi to resign as Navy chief in February last year.

While INS Sindhuratna Commander Sandeep Sinha will undergo disciplinary action, six other officers have been awarded "severe displeasure" — a black-mark in their records preventing any promotion, foreign posting, course and the like for them for two years. They include Commodore commanding submarines of Western Naval Command, SR Kapoor, and two of his officers.

They were on board INS Sindhuratna for "Task-II trials" to clear the 26-year-old submarine for operational deployment — after a refit for Rs 200 crore at Mumbai naval dockyard — when disaster struck on February 26. The probe showed a cable fire over the battery pit in the submarine's third compartment led to the thick toxic smoke on board the vessel, as was first reported by TOI.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar also wants accountability to be firmly fixed for submarine INS Sindhurakshak's sinking at the Mumbai dockyard after internal explosions in August 2013, which killed three officers and 15 sailors. But the Navy is yet to finalize the inquiry report into this accident.

The INS Sindhuratna case brings out how several factors are increasingly coming together to create a crisis in the blue-water force, tasked with guarding India's huge strategic interests in the region stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.

Politico-bureaucratic apathy in clearing new projects and emergency purchases, for instance, is making the Navy flog ageing warships well beyond their operational lives. Submarines, for instance, have a design life of only 25 years.

India is down to just 13 ageing diesel-electric submarines, only half of them being operational at any given time. The four Shishumar-class submarines of German-origin were inducted between 1986 and 1994. The nine Kilo-class submarines of Russian origin, in turn, were inducted between 1986 and 1991.

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