ACCEPTANCE OF THE SOVIET OFFER
In 1964, in a crucial development of far-reaching significance, an offer was received from the Soviet Union of submarines of the Type 641 (NATO code" Foxtrot’). An agreement was concluded with the USSR in 1965 for the transfer by purchase of four ‘F’ class submarines, which was one of the most successful conventional submarine designs then operating. This submarine owed a lot in its pedigree to the German Type XXI that was developed at the very end of the War, but which never saw combat. The Soviet offer, which included the training of crews at the far eastern Siberian naval base of Vladivostok, was on the most favourable of terms, from every angle, particularly that of finance. The four submarines were offered for a give-away price, by today’s standards. The only difficulty was the strange language and the unfamiliar cultural atmosphere in which our officers and sailors had to train.
But having striven for so long, neither our staff nor our submarine crews were to be deterred by such minor obstacles. They undertook to study the language, and an agreement was made with the Soviet Navy that the entire training would be in Russian, after a mere three-month language course. Accordingly, sixteen officers and about a hundred sailors were concentrated in Bombay in early 1966, and told to await further orders. The officers were informed that they would not be able to take their families with them, and neither the terms nor the duration of the deputation were defined.
All that was known was that they were to go to the Soviet Union, to a naval base near Vladivostok, and that the rest would be told to them in due course. The group finally left Bombay for Moscow on the 21st of June, and reached Vladivostok on the 2nd of June 1966.
< CNS Adm Chatterjee inpects the ME division. In the Picture LME Gogoi,CNS, Cdr Subra-Manian, and Lieut SK Singh can be seen.
Little time was lost in settling down and training began in earnest. Hard bargaining and persuasion cut down the planned training duration of two years to about fifteen months including a three-month language course. Guided by the ‘veterans’ who had been trained with the RN, the crews established warm and friendly relations with their Soviet instructors, and got down to the business of learning about the submarining profession. It was here that the experience and competence of those who had trained in HMS Dolphin and in the RN boats came in so useful. Their understanding of British submarine practices helped to bridge the gaps caused by language and unfamiliar Soviet practices. The Indian crews excelled during their training, and earned the respect and the admiration of the Soviets.
Mrs Chatterjee escorted by Adm Amelko, C-in-C Pacific Fleet.
In February 1967 the officers were cheered by the news that their families would be allowed to join them, and the citizens of Vladivostok saw Indian ladies for the first time later that month. The Russians were full of warmth and affection for the Indian contingent, and notwithstanding their own dire straits (times were hard in the USSR in the Sixties), they did all they could to make the stay of the Indian personnel comfortable. For their part, the Indian Naval personnel and their families bore the difficulties of climate and shortages stoically and succeeded in making friends and leaving a favourable impression, both professionally and socially.
In October 1967 the training in Vladivostok was completed and the crew of the first submarine departed for Baltiisk, near Kaliningrad, on the Baltic, while the spare crew returned to India to prepare for the arrival of the first submarine. Meanwhile, the second, and later the third and fourth batches also arrived in Vladivostok to commence their training. The importance attached by the Navy to the progress of submarine training was underscored by a visit to Vladivostok in June 1967 by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral AK Chatterjee. The first four Foxtrot class Submarines joined the Indian navy by the end of the Sixties.
In the early Seventies four more crews proceeded to the Soviet Union to bring back the fifth to eighth submarines of the Foxtrot class.