Strate­gic Base for Nu­clear Sub­marines

The grow­ing prow­ess of the third leg of in­di­aÕs nu­clear triad may be slow to take-off and emerge as a po­tent force, yet it al­ready has all essentials to em­ploy de­ter­rence in the re­gion


clOsE ON tHE HEEls of Golden Ju­bilee cel­e­bra­tions of the sub­ma­rine Arm came a re­port on in-prin­ci­ple ap­proval of the cen­tral Govern­ment for clear­ance of the ac­qui­si­tion of 676 hectares of for­est land in ram­billi off Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh for the clas­si­fied Nu­clear sub­ma­rine Base on the eastern seaboard was re­ceived with a big cheer. this pro­posal had been lan­guish­ing for the past seven years, or more. the am­bi­tious Nu­clear sub­ma­rine Base, code-named Project Var­sha has been con­ceived and planned as a strate­gic as­set of the na­tion, to be a stealthy base for the emerg­ing prow­ess of the third leg of the Nu­clear triad. the Base is de­signed to con­tain whole gam­bit of main­te­nance, sup­port in­fra­struc­ture, tech­ni­cal area and the com­mand and con­trol cen­tre, way be­yond the range and reach of the hos­tile satel­lites to snoop.

Phase i of Project Var­sha which is des­ig­nated as the Naval Al­ter­nate Op­er­at­ing Base is al­ready on stream and pro­gress­ing very well. the ap­proval-in prin­ci­ple for Phase ii is a real shot in the arm and will now pro­pel the project to start ex­pand­ing vi­tal fa­cil­i­ties to safely house recharge sta­tions and tech­ni­cal sup­port ar­eas for fu­ture nu­clear-pow­ered strate­gic as­sets to break out at the time of own choos­ing un­der favourable con­di­tions.

re­port­edly, the ap­provals are in place for the project to es­tab­lish a new mis­sile test­ing range in the An­daman is­lands and a few more strate­gic fa­cil­i­ties to be dis­persed in Mad­hya Pradesh. in the past there were se­ri­ous im­ped­i­ments and in­or­di­nate de­lays in ac­quir­ing land for crit­i­cal needs to store, ser­vice and man­u­fac­ture equip­ment for nu­clear as­sets like mis­siles, war­heads, etc.

Project Var­sha is a strate­gic joint ven­ture be­tween De­fence re­search & De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DrDO) and the in­dian Navy. the for­est area for which clear­ance has been awarded re­cently is ideal to pro­vide cam­ou­flage and con­ceal­ment to this vi­tal and strate­gic fa­cil­ity. the area is lo­cated at Vara­hat and sarada river front which pro­vides a safe en­try into the Bay of Ben­gal to launch nu­clear sub­marines on op­er­a­tional mis­sions.

Naval Ad­vanced Op­er­at­ing Base

Over the past 50 years Eastern Naval com­mand has wit­nessed phe­nom­e­nal growth such that its present lo­ca­tion has sat­u­rated to the ex­tent that ad­di­tional in­fra­struc­ture and fa­cil­i­ties are now not pos­si­ble at Visakhapatnam. Hence, the fu­tur­is­tic projects of the com­mand have to be dis­persed to village ram­billi which is 50 km south of Visakhapatnam. the new naval base has been des­ig­nated as the Naval Ad­vanced Op­er­at­ing Base (NAOB) which is de­signed to con­struct un­der­ground sub­ma­rine pens to house the ex­pand­ing fleet of nu­clear sub­marines and to pro­tect them from snoop­ing by satel­lites and air strikes.

it is es­ti­mated that with the clear­ance for land ac­qui­si­tions, the de­vel­op­ment work on the clas­si­fied base will re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant boost and gather mo­men­tum in a big way for the con­struc­tion of tun­nels, jet­ties, de­pots, work­shops and ac­com­mo­da­tion. the re­cent clear­ance for land ac­qui­si­tions is ex­pected to pave way for a sprawl­ing and fu­tur­is­tic base to be spread over 20 sq km. Also, just 20 km away at Atchuta­pu­ram, the Bhabha Atomic re­search cen­tre (BArc) is con­struct­ing a re­search and de­vel­op­ment com­plex that will sup­port the sub­ma­rine base. About 845 hectares have al­ready been handed to BArc for the new fa­cil­ity.

Fu­ture Ready Force Lev­els

Sub­mersible Ship Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Nu­clear With the com­mis­sion­ing of iNs Ari­hant, in­dia has al­ready ac­quired the mem­ber­ship of the elite club of six com­pris­ing the us, rus­sia, the uK, France and china to in­dige­nously build a sub­mersible ship Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Nu­clear ( ssBN). iNs Ari­hant can carry twelve sagarika (K-15) sub­ma­rine launched Bal­lis­tic Mis­siles (slBMs) that have a range of 700 km. in ad­di­tion to the proven K-15, DrDO is also de­vel­op­ing a longer-range slBM, des­ig­nated as K-4, which the fu­ture ssBNs will also carry. iNs Ari­hant is only equipped to han­dle four of the larger K-4s, as Ari­hant has four launch tubes but three K-15s can fit in each launch tube. the sub­ma­rine can also carry tor­pe­does and sub­ma­rine launched cruise Mis­siles (slcMs).

iNs Ari­hant was built pri­mar­ily as a train­ing plat­form to in­doc­tri­nate the se­lected crew to mas­ter the art of op­er­at­ing and op­er­a­tionally ex­ploit the ssBN op­ti­mally un­der all con­di­tions. Govern­ment has ap­proved con­struc­tion of four fol­low-on ssBN of Ari­hant class. it is learnt that sec­ond ssBN de­sign will be an up­graded ver­sion of Ari­hant and will pack greater fire­power than the first SSBN of line. re­port­edly, the sec­ond ssBN is likely to be fit­ted out with eight ver­ti­cal launch tubes, al­low­ing it to carry twenty-four K-15 mis­siles or eight K-4 mis­siles. in ad­di­tion, the new boats will have a re­ac­tor more pow­er­ful than the INS Ari­hant’s 83 MW pres­surised light-wa­ter re­ac­tor. the new re­ac­tor will use ura­nium as fuel and light wa­ter as a coolant and mod­er­a­tor, which will al­low it to op­er­ate stealth­ily and will have sub­merged en­durance of about two months. the new ssBN will be able to clock sub­merged speed of 24 knots.

re­port­edly the in­dian Navy will have five SSBNs in its arse­nal that will be ca­pa­ble of launch­ing mis­siles to a tar­get range of over 5,000 km, even­tu­ally. the Ari­hant class of ssBNs are crit­i­cal for the sec­ond­strike op­tion in case in­dia comes un­der a nu­clear at­tack. The first of its class, INS Ari­hant, is al­ready op­er­a­tional, while its suc­ces­sor, the Arighat, is be­ing out­fit­ted at Visakhapatnam. the sec­ond ssBN Arighat which was ear­lier spec­u­lated to be named as Arid­haman is be­ing read­ied for even­tual in­duc­tion. the sub­ma­rine has been launched into wa­ter and has now en­tered the cru­cial phase of out­fit­ting. The sub­ma­rine was launched by De­fence Min­is­ter, Nir­mala sithara­man last year which was kept un­der a wrap to keep away from hos­tile gaze. It is an open se­cret that the first of line has a far longer ges­ta­tion pe­riod than its fol­low-on. thus Ari­hant which was launched in the sum­mer of 2009 was com­mis­sioned as iNs Ari­hant un­der a quiet cer­e­mony by chief of the Naval staff dur­ing Au­gust 2016. Hav­ing learnt the right lessons and af­ter gain­ing vi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence, in­dian Navy is now aim­ing at an am­bi­tious tar­get of two years to com­mis­sion Arighat.

Sub­mersible Ship Nu­clear

Dur­ing Fe­bru­ary 2015 con­struc­tion of six sub­mersible ship Nu­clear (ssN) to bridge the gap of force level of 28 con­ven­tional sub­marines as per orig­i­nal per­spec­tive plan for build­ing and mod­erni­sa­tion of the sub­ma­rine Arm, was ap­proved by the Govern­ment. the mam­moth plan, ex­pected to cost over $12 bil­lion, is for six mod­ern ssNs to be made in in­dia. it is learnt that the de­sign work which is a de­riv­a­tive of Ari­hant class has al­ready started and the am­bi­tious project for a new class of sub­marines is ex­pected to fruc­tify within 15 years.

Strate­gic Per­spec­tive

An am­bi­tious and strate­gi­cally cru­cial Project Var­sha has all the in­gre­di­ents to be clas­si­fied as a valuable and wor­thy coun­ter­part of the fu­tur­is­tic naval base es­tab­lished at Kar­war un­der ÔPro­ject seabirdÕin coastal Kar­nataka to give in­di­aÕs mar­itime forces both strate­gic depth and op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity on the western seaboard against Pak­istan. Phase i of Kar­war naval base is com­plete and part sanc­tion of Phase ii is also in place While Kar­war will even­tu­ally de­con­gest an al­ready over-crowded Mum­bai har­bour, Project Var­sha too holds the iden­ti­cal prom­ise for the Eastern Naval com­mand on the eastern seaboard.

to­tal credit is due to the vi­sion and far­sight­ed­ness of the naval plan­ners for con­ceiv­ing and plan­ning am­bi­tious Project Var­sha to house; For­ward­ing Op­er­at­ing Base and Op­er­a­tional turn-around bases on the eastern seaboard for grow­ing force lev­els of Eastern Naval com­mand. the Base prom­ises to emerge as a state of the art, lat­est tech­nol­ogy en­abled in­fra­struc­ture, sup­port and main­te­nance fa­cil­i­ties, tech­ni­cal area for prepa­ra­tion of weapons, mis­siles, etc. this is in­deed a for­ward look­ing ini­tia­tive as in the fu­ture newer war­ships, air­craft car­rier, air­craft, drones, sup­port aux­il­iaries, etc. will re­quire wide berths for hous­ing, launch­ing and op­er­at­ing.

Project Var­sha will have all the in­gre­di­ents, al­beit at smaller scale to match chi­naÕs mas­sive un­der­ground nu­clear sub­ma­rine base at ya­long on the south­ern­most tip of Hainan is­land, which houses its new shang-class ssNs and the Jin-class ssBNs. the grow­ing prow­ess of the third leg of in­di­aÕs nu­clear triad may be slow to take-off and emerge as a po­tent force, yet it al­ready has all essentials to em­ploy de­ter­rence in the re­gion. it is this re­al­i­sa­tion which will com­press the build and in­duc­tion cy­cle of Arighat, the sec­ond ssBN and the fol­low-on pro­gramme. like­wise, con­struc­tion of six ssNs will also be en­er­gised to en­sure that the project comes on stream with quite ef­fi­ciency.

The grow­ing prow­ess of the third leg of In­dia’s nu­clear triad may be slow to take­off and emerge as a po­tent force, yet it al­ready has all essentials to em­ploy de­ter­rence in the re­gion


INS Ari­hant

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