Key Point: Because U.S. submarines have to project power a lot farther from home, much more is expected of their mission.
Is it possible that one of New Delhi’s Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines managed to “sink” a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class attack submarine during exercises in October 2015?
The Indian submarine INS Sindhudhvaj (S56) allegedly “killed” USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) during an exercise called Malabar that is held annually between India, Japan and the United States.
According to the Indians, the submarines were assigned to track each other down in the Bay of Bengal. “The way it happens is that the Sindhudhvaj recorded the Hydrophonic Effect (HE) - simply put, underwater noise - of the nuclear powered submarine and managed to positively identify it before locking on to it. Being an exercise what did not happen was the firing,” an Indian naval officer told India Today. The Indian vessel then “sank” USS City of Corpus Christi using 533mm torpedoes.
If the Indian description of the events is correct, it would be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal record for New Delhi’s undersea force.
In recent years, the woefully neglected Indian submarine fleet has suffered numerous calamities. Submarines have run aground, caught fire and even sunk due to a combination of underinvestment, negligence and corruption. Perhaps the worst incident was when INS Sindhurakshak sank when at harbor in Mumbai after a series of explosions in the forward torpedo bay, killing eighteen sailors.
Nonetheless, it’s not a huge surprise that a Russian-built Kilo would be able to defeat a Los Angeles-class attack boat. The Los Angeles-class is a dated design that is slowly being replaced by the newer and exponentially quieter Virginia-class submarine. However, it must be noted that we do not know the rules of engagement or parameters that the sides had agreed to. Furthermore, it must be noted there is the possibility of exaggeration.