India’s bid to complete its nuclear triad -- the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea -- will soon get a major boost as the Navy is planning to get its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant, operational by the end of 2013.
The 6,000-tonne submarine, presently under harbour trials at the naval docks in Visakhapatnam, will be put through rigorous sea trials by the middle of 2013 before its commissioning.
INS Arihant is key to India’s bid to have a credible second-strike capability, as enunciated in its over-a-decade-old nuclear doctrine, as the submarine-launched nuclear warhead has stealth and surprise as its USP.
Nuclear-powered submarines can lurk deep sea closer to the enemy waters for months together without being detected, due to its long endurance levels unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines. The Navy is operating 12 diesel-electric submarines. China already has 10 nuclear submarines.
When INS Arihant joins the Navy fleet, it would be the second nuclear-powered submarine that the country will be operating, alongside the INS Chakra, a Russian-built Akula-II K-152 Nerpa submarine inducted into the Navy on a 10-year lease early in 2012.
However, INS Arihant will be one among the two vessels to be armed with the submarine-launched nuclear weapons, which are at present under development by the nation’s lone defence research agency, the DRDO.
The country is under an obligation not to arm INS Chakra, in view of the international non-proliferation regimes, under its lease agreement with Russia.
“We expect to have good news for the nation very soon,” Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi said on Monday. INS Arihant was unveiled in July 2009 and it was to be inducted into the force after all the trials by 2012-end.
But, the February 2012 sea-acceptance trials could not take place due to institutional delays in readying the vessel.
However, there has been a year-long delay in the plans, resulting in a setback to its plans to have two nuclear-powered submarines operational by the end of 2012.Admiral Joshi, however, noted that in ‘a majority’ of the ‘harbour-acceptance trials’, INS Arihant would be used to test the DRDO-built 750-km K-15 submarine-launched nuke-tipped missiles and the 3,500-km K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which are under development.
Submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles are the most critical leg in the nuclear weapons triad. Tsurface warships, apart from air-launched missiles. India is already working on having two more Arihant class of nuclear-powered submarines in its arsenal.