The report said an Indian crew would sail the Akula II class craft to its home base at the end of Jan after receiving it on a 10year lease, in a deal that has angered Pakistan. - Photo by AFP

MOSCOW: Russia has handed over the nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India following more than two years of delays, according to a senior naval official.

'The signing ceremony happened yesterday at the Bolshoi Kamen shipbuilding facility in the (Far East) Primorye region where the Nerpa is now based,' the official in the naval chief of staff told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

The report said an Indian crew would sail the Akula II class craft to its home base at the end of January after receiving it on a 10year lease, in a deal that has angered Pakistan.

'All of the naval tests and performance checks have been completed, the Russian 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 Nerpa will be the first nuclear powered submarine to be operated by India in nearly two decades after it decommissioned its last such Soviet built vessel in 1991.

India is currently completing the development of its own Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic submarines and the Nerpa's delivery is expected to help crews train for the domestic boat's introduction into service next year.

The Russian Pacific port ceremony was held on the same day a shipyard fire engulfed the Northern Fleet's Yekaterinburg nuclear-powered strategic submarine in the Murmansk region on the opposite side of the country.

The Nerpa had initially been due tobe 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.

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

The 8,000-ton vessel can fire a range of torpedoes as well as Granat cruise missiles that can be nuclear-tipped.

India has promised not to arm the submarine with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles under its obligations to international treaties it adopted after conducting a series of atomic tests in the 1990s. But Pakistan is worried over the craft's delivery.'Rest assured, there will be no compromise in terms of maintaining the credibility of our deterrence, spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Office Abdul Basit was quoted as saying by The Asian Age newspaper this week.

The submarine is due to be commissioned as the INS Chakra in India under a 2004 agreement that had seen the South Asian country pay $650 million in construction costs.

Newspaper reports in India said New Delhi could end up paying as much as $900 million under the terms of the deal.

Russia supplies 70 per cent 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.-AFP

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