India joins elite N-submarine club

India joins elite N-submarine club

After 25 years of diligent research in the face of a global technology denial regime, India’s first nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, which can remain under water for a whole month, was launched on Sunday, catapulting the country into a select band of nations with such strategic technology.

The 104-metre-long submarine completes the third leg of the nuclear triad, giving India retaliatory second strike capability from the sea. As per naval tradition in which a woman launches a new ship, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur broke a coconut and unveiled the submarine which was one of India’s most secret defence projects in the last three decades. The leviathan has a displacement of 6,000 tonnes and houses a 80 MWe pressurised water reactor as its main power source. Miniaturising the nuclear reactor to fit into a submarine was one of the most critical challenges.

At the moment, INS Arihant (Enemy Killer) has 12 K-15 short range ballistic missiles with a one-tonne nuclear warhead which can hit targets at a distance of 700 km. Eventually, they will be replaced by 3500-km range K-X class SLBMs.

Addressing scientists, naval officers and sailors, the Prime Minister said: “The sea is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of India’s security interests and we must readjust our military preparedness to this changing environment.”

Singh said India had now joined a select group five nations with such strategic technology. The others are the US, Russia, the UK, France and China.  Incidentally China became a member of the N-sub club in 1971—three years before Pokhran-I—which prompted Indira Gandhi to conceive the project. “It is incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Singh said hinting at the strategic role the nuclear submarine will play in increasing the Navy’s reach in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

After the formal launch, INS Arihant will remain in water at a site close to the ultra-secure Ship Building Centre here for validation tests followed by deep sea trials. After two years, it will be inducted into the Navy.

A unit of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Kalpakkam miniaturised the reactor. The advanced technology vessel (ATV) project was launched in 1984 with support from the USSR. It suffered a setback after the disintegration of the USSR in 1992, leading to loss of some crucial years. Steel cutting for submarine construction began in the Larsen and Tubro’s Hazira complex in 1998 when A P J Abdul Kalam was scientific adviser to the defence minister. L&T and Walchand (manufacturers of high pressure pumps) are the two major private companies involved in the classified project. “Because of the technology denial, everything was built from the scratch,” said Vice Admiral (retired) DSP Verma who heads the ATV project. “Present situation in the neighbourhood necessitates to have such strategic assets that give us a second strike capability,” said Defence Minister A K Antony. National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Russian Ambassador were also present.

Commanded by Capt Angshuman Dutta, the 93 crew on board the deep sea monster can fire missiles, anti-ship and land attack missiles and torpedoes. Though the exact depth of INS Arihant remains classified, nuclear submarines can go up to a depth of 400-500 metres.

DH News Service

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