Russia will lease its Nerpa nuclear submarine to India by the end of the year, the head of Russia’s federal agency in charge of military and technical cooperation, Mikhail Dmitriyev, said on Friday.
“We have planned to do it by the end of the year,” Dmitriyev told journalists in Moscow.
The delivery will make India the sixth country to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after France, China, Russia, Britain and the United States.
The $650 million lease contract for the Nerpa was signed in 2004. The transfer was initially scheduled for 2008, but was put on hold following a fatal accident later that year, in which 20 people, mostly civilians, died and two dozen others were poisoned on board the submarine when a freon gas fire suppressant system was accidentally set off.
Friday’s announcement on the submarine lease came during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Russia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Singh earlier in the day.
The November 2008 accident on board the submarine, which occurred during a trial in the Sea of Japan, was Russia’s worst naval tragedy since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000.
The Nerpa’s captain, Dmitry Lavrentyev, and engineer Dmitry Grobov, who allegedly activated the sub’s fire safety system “without authorization and for no reason,” were charged with negligence, but later acquitted.
During Singh’s visit to Moscow, the two countries also signed an agreement on the supply of kits to assemble 42 Su-30MKI Flanker multirole fighters for the Indian Air Force.
India has been the largest purchaser of Russia’s military equipment since 2007.