Giving a quiet yet substantial boost to Indian Navy’s capabilities, India’s first indigenously-made nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant has been commissioned into service. According to various media reports, the nuclear submarine was commissioned in August this year by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, but it has not been formally declared. Navy too has declined to comment on the reports of Arihant being commissioned.
INS Arihant is a 6,000-tonne submarine that is capable of launching nuclear weapons from underwater. The submarine has been commissioned after extensive sea trials. Arihant is an SSBN, that is a submarine that can carry ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. SSBNs are equipped with better stealth features and are larger compared to SSNs, which are nuclear-powered attack submarines. SSBNs are also said to be the “best guarantor” of a second strike capability in a nuclear exchange. The submarine is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core.
INS Arihant, or for that matter any SSBN, can operate underwater over long distances for months. The INS Arihant is considered as the most potent and difficult to detect leg of India’s nuclear triad. India already has the land-based Agni ballistic missiles, and fighters like the Mirage 2000s, which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons. However, according to a TOI report, the INS Arihant is not fully ready to be deployed for deterrent patrols with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The full weapons integration with submarine-launched ballistic missiles will take some more time, the report said.
The timeline of India’s quest for its own nuclear submarine began in late 1990s, with the actual construction of 3 SSBNs starting under the secret Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project. In 2009, Arihant was launched into the water at the ship-building centre in Visakhapatnam. In 2013, the nuclear reactor of the submarine went ‘critical’ and from December 2014 onwards, the sea trials began, which included the test firing of K-series of missiles. In what is good news for the Indian Navy, TOI reported that the construction of the second nuclear submarine, INS Aridhaman, is almost complete and it is slated for delivery in 2018. At a time when the presence of China’s submarines in the Indian Ocean is a major area of concern, INS Arihant’s commissioning is a welcome development.