INS Arihant: India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine completes deterrence run; here’s what experts say

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New Delhi | November 6, 2018 8:13 AM

The indigenous INS Arihant India's first nuclear-powered submarine successfully completed its first deterrence patrol, is a watershed event making India only the sixth nation after the Big 5 to achieve this capability, according to experts.

INS ArihantINS Arihant: India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine completes deterrence run

The indigenous INS Arihant India’s first nuclear-powered submarine successfully completed its first deterrence patrol, is a watershed event making India only the sixth nation after the Big 5 to achieve this capability, according to experts.

The ship submersible ballistic, nuclear (SSBN) submarine is part of Indian Navy’s India’s Eastern Naval Command. The name Arihant derives from two words – Ari meaning enemy and Hanth meaning destroy. The second SSBN under the project, INS Aridhaman, is undergoing sea trials. These submarines are part of a top-secret project under which India aims to have at least five nuclear submarines.

Apart from being able to launch nuclear missiles, they are different from other defence systems because they can remain at sea for months at stretch. According to experts, the only time the submarine will go to the dock will be just for a crew check.

Also Read: INS Arihant submarine completes triad, PM Modi says fitting reply to nuclear blackmail

Sharing his view with FE Online, Commodore Anil Jai Singh, (retd) who was involved in drafting the Navy’s 30 year submarine construction plan and the 15 year ship building plan said, “The cornerstone of India’s nuclear doctrine is No First Use; hence it is imperative for the country to possess a credible second strike capability to deter an aggressor.”

The ability to fire nuclear missiles from under the sea — an ability that Arihant has — is particularly important because submarines, unlike fighter aircraft and land-based missile systems, are harder to track and destroy.

While India already has a land and air capability, the credibility of seconds strike comes from the sea based leg of the triad, ideally a submarine which has the element of surprise and concealment besides the fact that it cannot be destroyed in a first strike by the enemy, he opined.

A nuclear triad refers to strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

“A successful deterrence patrol also validates the country’s nuclear command structure because it involves not just the submarine and its weapons but also the entire National Command Authority construct including the launch protocol, the real time communication link between the shore and the submarine many thousands of miles away and hundreds of metres below the surface of the sea etc. Further, for something as critical as affecting a second strike there is no room either for delay or error,” Singh, Senior Vice President, ATLAS ELEKTRONIK India Pvt Ltd, added.

The vessel has been designed by the Indian Navy’s Submarine Design Bureau and developed by the Indian Navy, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Now India has joined a select group of countries (US, Russia, China, France and the UK) which builds and operates Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear (SSBN).

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the crew of Strategic Strike Nuclear Submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant, which recently returned from its first deterrence patrol, completing the establishment of the country’s survivable nuclear triad.

At present, the only nuclear powered platform in service with the Indian Navy is the INS Chakra, an Akula class SSN on lease from Russia. Congratulating the crew and all involved in the achievement which puts India among a handful of countries having the capability to design, construct and operate SSBNs, he stressed the significance of the successful deployment of INS Arihant for the completion of India’s nuclear triad.

India remains committed to the doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterrence and No First Use, as was decided by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in its meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 2003.

A robust nuclear command and control structure, effective safety assurance architecture and strict political control have been put under India’s Nuclear Command Authority.

Country’s first nuclear missile submarine has passed several deep sea diving drills as well as weapons launch tests over the past several months under extreme secrecy. The vessel has have undergone deep sea dives off Vishakhapatnam where it was build.

Indian Navy does not have a submarine rescue vessel of this class – a vital requirement during weapon firing tests where all possibilities need to be catered for. And it is expected to have on board K 15 (or BO-5) short range missiles with a range of over 700 km and the K 4 ballistic missile with a range of 3,500 km. For communicating with the submarine, a communication facility has already been set up in the Navy.

The design of the vessels has been based on the Russian Akula-1 Class submarine and weighs 6,000t. Considered to be the longest in the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet it can carry up to 95 crew. It has the ability to stay under water for long periods undetected due to the nuclear-powered 80MW pressurised water reactor (PWR), which has been developed by the BARC.

This is the first of the five vessels that is ready to be inducted soon. Work is going on two more Arihant class submarines at the Ship Building Center (SBC) in Vishakhapatnam which will be larger and more advanced than the first one.

Facilities have already been created on the Eastern Coast near Kakinada where the nuclear assets of the navy will be based. The vessel which is expected to carry sea-based nuclear weapons will be handled by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) under the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).

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