Submarine’s ageing power pack was not replaced in refit

Even as the Navy recovered the bodies of Lt. Commander Kapish Muwal and Lt. Commander Manoranjan Kumar, the two officers killed in Wednesday’s explosion on board the submarine INS Sindhuratna, fresh evidence is emerging that ageing equipment might have contributed to the tragedy.

Though the ageing, 1988-commissioned INS Sindhuratna had undergone a refit earlier this year, investigators have found that the batteries that powered it underwater had not been replaced because of delay in contracting, highly placed Navy sources said. Investigators would seek to establish how the flaw escaped attention during earlier harbour trials, the sources said.

Hydrogen leaking from the batteries, as The Hindu reported on Thursday, is thought to have caused the explosion. The two dead officers were trapped in the burning compartment, after it was sealed off to prevent the fire spreading.

Admiral D.K. Joshi, who resigned as Navy Chief hours after the tragedy, made a closed-door speech to 40-odd flag officers who assembled at naval headquarters on Thursday. Admiral Joshi said he felt compelled to resign because, even as he cracked down hard on officers responsible for errors, he had been unable to push the Defence Ministry to take adequate supportive measures.

The Admiral said that he consulted none but his wife before taking the decision.

In a separate statement to the media, Defence Minister AK Antony told journalists he “consulted everybody” before accepting the resignation.

“I met the Prime Minister also. Ultimately, we took a decision to accept the resignation.”

Describing the Navy Chief as a “very good Admiral” and a “fine human being,” the Minister said he was “sad” about the development.

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