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Indian Sub Explosion Likely Caused by Detonated Munitions

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INS Sindhurakshak

INS Sindhurakshak

Indian defense officials are blaming “possible ignition of armaments,” for the Aug. 14 explosion that killed 18 Indian Navy sailors aboard the Kilo-class diesel submarine INS Sindhurakshak.

“Initial assessments indicate that an internal explosion occurred in the forward compartment of the submarine where ordnance was stored resulting in further near-simultaneous explosions and major fire aboard Sindhurakshak,” defense minister A.K. Antony told the Indian parliament on Monday.

In response to the explosion, the Indian Navy is now conducting checks on weapon safety systems aboard its submarines and auditing training for sailors, Antony said.

A Tuesday report in Jane’s Defense Weekly cited naval experts who concluded the explosion was caused by “mishandling of equipment.”

Sindhurakshak had rejoined the Indian fleet in April following a 36 month, $80 million refit in Russia and was armed with torpedoes and ship and land attack missiles. The ship was scheduled to depart last week on patrol, according to the Jane’s report.

The disaster highlights the weakness of the Indian submarine arm

“Ensuring a safe and effective submarine fleet will be the key to ensuring that their underwater capabilities will be on par with the increasingly powerful naval aviation and surface fleet capabilities,” Eric Wertheim, author of Naval Institute’s Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News last week.

India’s neighbors and regional rivals Pakistan and China both have undergone extensive expansion in their submarine fleets.

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Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the USNI Online Editor at the U.S. Naval Institute.
He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. In his role he covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Sam is a 2003 graduate of Virginia Military Institute.

  • Edward J. Palumbo

    I am reminded of the tragedy aboard the Russian submarine, Kursk, in August, 2000, and the British Royal Navy submarine, Sidon, in 1955, when leaking HTP (high-test peroxide) caused violent explosions. Torpedoes require frequent inspection and maintenance. India’s rapidly expanding navy may not have effectively addressed the preventive maintenance requirements. Let us learn what we can from an objective investigation and hope to prevent similar tragedies in the future.