And you thought your duty was tough


The INS Rustoleum, aka Nerpa, is the pride of India’s nuclear Navy. (In fairness, they have busted the rust and given her a new coat of paint since this photo.)

If it seems like U.S. ship builders are spitting out subs at breakneck speed, it is with good reason.

They are.

Lawmakers put the Navy on a 60-month construction span by the end of the Block II contract, which calls for two $2 billion submarines each year starting in 2011. Basically, they want subs better and cheaper … and delivered yesterday.

India seems to be taking a slightly different approach.

The country is planning a 10-year lease of a Russian nuke, the Nerpa. Not sure if that lease has an option to buy. For the crew’s sake, I hope not.

Construction began in the early 1990s, back when our Navy still had non-nuclear carriers. Russia’s financial collapse put Nerpa on hold until India visited the bargain basement and dropped $650 million to get the screw turning once more. Things were looking up when Nerpa started sea trials in November 2008, but a toxic gas leak killed 20 sailors and technicians. Then to add insult to injury painful death, the sub’s cost went from $974 million to $2.5 billion.

But India won’t let a little thing like a dangerous, poorly designed, over-priced, cursed boat stop them! In fact, defense leaders have come up with the ultimate solution for putting this storied past behind their new boat. They are going to rename it the “Chakra,” which roughly translated means “Mayday! Mayday! May …,” or something like that.

Makes a few misaligned bolts in the torpedo room seem rather minor, eh?


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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