NEW DELHI/MOSCOW- Russia will lease to India in 2010 its new Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine, Russian defence officials and Indian naval officers said on Tuesday.
The Russian military had previously denied media reports the Nerpa, in which 20 people died during testing in the Sea of Japan in November 2008, was to go to India.
The lease of the Nerpa nuclear submarine to India for 10 years... will take place this summer or autumn, an unidentified Russian Defence Ministry official told Russian Itar-Tass newsagency.
The deal was confirmed by Indian officers.
We will soon receive the submarine from Russia, a senior Indian navy officer, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
We are very keen to get the Nerpa as soon as possible as it will add further teeth to the navy's growing strength, a defence ministry official said.
There was no information as to the cost of the deal.
India last July unveiled its first nuclear-powered submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles. However, the Arihant, the first of two similar Indian submarines that are to be built with technical help from Russia, will not be operationally active before 2015, defence officials said.
The country already has aircraft and missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The Nerpa is the latest of a class of attack submarines codenamed Akula by NATO which are armed with conventional torpedoes and cruise missiles. The Nerpa was laid down in 1993 but was only launched and started sea trials in 2008 due to the piecemeal funding of its construction.
A senior Defence Ministry spokesman told Reuters the Nerpa had been accepted by Russia's navy at the end of last year but added: More trials are set for February to eliminate the drawbacks uncovered by navy experts during earlier tests.
In November 2008 the Nerpa was on sea trials when its fire extinguishing system went off unexpectedly. Twenty people died after inhaling the toxic gas used as a fire suppressant. The accident was the deadliest to hit Russia's navy since 2000, when the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded beneath the Barents Sea in 2000, killing all 118 sailors on board.
Itar-Tass said the submarine would be handed over to an Indian crew in the port of Vladivostok, Russia's military base and the main gateway to the Pacific.
Russia, India's close economic and political partner since Soviet days, is one of the world's major arms exporters. It has a fleet of nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines alongside its strategic nuclear-armed vessels, which are not sold abroad.
(Editing by Matthew Jones)