Russia hands over Nerpa nuclear sub to India: report

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Russia has handed over the nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India at a ceremony that followed more than two years of delays, a source in the naval chief of staff told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

"The signing ceremony happened yesterday at the Bolshoi Kamen ship building facility in the (Far East) Primorye region where the Nerpa is now based," the senior navy official said, adding that it was being transferred on a 10-year lease.

The report said an Indian crew would sail the Akula II class craft to its home base at the end of January.

"All of the naval tests and performance checks have been completed," the Russian navy official said.

"The crew will begin making themselves feel at home on board the craft after New Year and start sailing it to India in the latter half of January," the official said.

The reported ceremony was held the same day that a shipyard fire on the opposite side of Russia in the Murmansk regional engulfed the Northern Fleet's Yekaterinburg nuclear-powered strategic submarine.

The Nerpa had initially been due to be handed over to India in 2009 but experienced various problems during testing.

It suffered a mishap during trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008 that killed 20 sailors when a fire extinguisher released a deadly chemical that was accidentally loaded into the system.

Later reports said some of the ship's equipment malfunctioned during testing and that the weapons navigation system did not work to India's specifications.

The 8,140-tonne vessel can fire a range of torpedoes as well as Granat cruise missiles that can be nuclear-tipped. It is due to be commissioned by India after many delays within the coming months.

Russia supplies 70 percent of India's military hardware but New Delhi has been unhappy about delays to arms orders from Moscow and looked to other suppliers including Israel and the United States in recent years.

© 2011 AFP

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