Fully Op­er­a­tional and Rar­ing to Go


In­dia re­mains com­mit­ted to the doc­trine of cred­i­ble min­i­mum de­ter­rence and “no first-use”, as en­shrined in the de­ci­sion taken by the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity in its meet­ing chaired by the then Prime Min­is­ter Late Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee on Jan­uary 4, 2003.

More than two decades ago on May 11, 1998, For­mer Prime Min­is­ter, Late Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee with a straight face an­nounced to the world that In­dia has suc­cess­fully con­ducted the land­mark Pokhran-II nu­clear tests at the Pokhran test range in ra­jasthan’s Jaisalmer district. A series of five nu­clear ex­plo­sions were con­ducted be­tween May 11 and 13, 1998. May 11, 1998 the day of first of the five ex­plo­sions was of­fi­cially de­clared as the na­tional tech­nol­ogy day.

More than a decade later Ari­hant was launched on July 20, 2009, the an­niver­sary of Vi­jay di­was (Kargil war Vic­tory day) by the then Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia, dr Man­mo­han Singh.

the jour­ney of Ari­hant dates back to the 1970s when nu­clear sub­ma­rine pro­gramme code-named Ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy Ve­hi­cle (ATV) was con­ceived by the then Prime Min­is­ter, Late Indira Gandhi. the ` 30,000-crore top Se­cret project was es­tab­lished in 1980s. After fit­ting out and ex­ten­sive sea tri­als, on Fe­bru­ary 23, 2016, Ari­hant was cer­ti­fied fit for op­er­a­tions. INS Ari­hant was then qui­etly com­mis­sioned on Au­gust 26, 2016.

two years later, on novem­ber 5, 2018, Prime Min­is­ter naren­dra Modi proudly de­clared to the world that InS Ari­hant, In­dia’s first Nu­clear Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Sub­ma­rine, has suc­cess­fully com­pleted its first de­ter­rence pa­trol, which sig­ni­fied the un­der­wa­ter preda­tor had un­der­taken its maiden long-range mis­sion with “live” nu­clear-tipped mis­siles em­barked on­board. he added, “I con­grat­u­late all those in­volved, es­pe­cially the crew of InS Ari­hant for this ac­com­plish­ment, which will al­ways be re­mem­bered in our history.” the 6,000-tonne InS Ari­hant, comes un­der the di­rect con­trol of the nu­clear Com­mand Author­ity with Prime Min­is­ter naren­dra Modi at the helm.

the Prime Min­is­ter added, “to­day is his­toric be­cause it marks the com­ple­tion of the suc­cess­ful es­tab­lish­ment of the nu­clear triad. In­dia’s nu­clear triad will be an im­por­tant pil­lar of global peace and sta­bil­ity.” “As a re­spon­si­ble nation, In­dia has put in place a ro­bust nu­clear com­mand and con­trol struc­ture, ef­fec­tive safety as­sur­ance ar­chi­tec­ture and strict po­lit­i­cal con­trol, un­der its nu­clear Com­mand Author­ity,” said a PMo state­ment. “In­dia re­mains com­mit­ted to the doc­trine of cred­i­ble min­i­mum de­ter­rence and “no first-use”, as en­shrined in the de­ci­sion taken by the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity in its meet­ing chaired by the then Prime Min­is­ter Late Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee on Jan­uary 4, 2003,” it added.

over a month-long pa­trol by InS Ari­hant (which means an­ni­hi­la­tor of en­e­mies), armed with the 750-km range K-15 mis­siles, in­ci­den­tally, came at a time when a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine was once again found prowl­ing around in the In­dian ocean re­gion (Ior).

China has de­ployed at least eight sub­marines, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween nu­clear and con­ven­tional diesel-elec­tric boats, in the Ior un­der the guise of anti-piracy pa­trols since de­cem­ber 2013.

while the mis­sile ranges of InS Ari­hant pale in com­par­i­son of over 5,000km ranges of sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles (SLBMs) held in the ar­se­nal of the US, rus­sia and China, Prime Min­is­ter Modi had Pak­istan in mind when he said the nu­clear sub­ma­rine is a counter to nu­clear black­mail.

the land-based Agni-V mis­siles, with the over 5,000-km, cat­e­gorised as InterContinental Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile which has been in the ar­moury of In­dia for long is now in the process of be­ing in­ducted, as also the fighter jets jury-rigged to de­liver nu­clear weapons.

the stealthy sub-sur­face ca­pa­bil­ity with InS Ari­hant pro­vides far greater nu­clear teeth and cred­i­bil­ity. As per the US navy’s hull clas­si­fi­ca­tion a sub­ma­rine ca­pa­ble of de­ploy­ing sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic mis­sile with nu­clear war­heads is known as the Sub­mersible Ship Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile nu­clear (SSBn). thus SSBn, the sub-sur­face leg of the nu­clear triad is con­sid­ered the most se­cure, sur­viv­able and po­tent plat­form to launch re­tal­ia­tory strikes. In­dia has pro­nounced its nu­clear doc­trine of “no first-use.” Hence, in the In­dian con­text the first two legs viz; land-based mis­siles and fighter-bombers could pos­si­bly be neu­tralised or de­stroyed by pre-emp­tive en­emy strikes, the SSBns can re­main in­su­lated and un­de­tected for in­def­i­nite pe­riod deep down in the oceans.

The most sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture of the SSBns is its pro­longed sub-sur­face en­durance re­main­ing un­de­tected. the only lim­i­ta­tion to the un­der­wa­ter en­durance of SSBns is caused by the phys­i­cal and men­tal fa­tigue of their crews. Con­versely, it is far eas­ier to de­tect con­ven­tional sub­marines be­cause they have to sur­face or “snorkel’’ every few days to get oxy­gen to re-charge their diesel-elec­tric bat­ter­ies.

In­dia, of course, is build­ing far big­ger nu­clear sub­marines with longer-range mis­siles than a “baby boomer” like InS Ari­hant, which is pro­pelled by an 83 Mw pres­surised light-wa­ter re­ac­tor at its core, un­der the se­cre­tive ` 90,000 crore AtV pro­gramme.

Arighat, the sec­ond in line of the SSBn pro­gramme is cur­rently un­der-con­struc­tion at the Ship Build­ing Cen­tre at Visakha­p­at­nam. Arighat was launched in novem­ber 2017. Based on the most valu­able lessons learnt from the con­cept to op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of InS Ari­hant, Arighat project prom­ises to be most ef­fi­ciently man­aged and is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional by 2020.

the SSBn pro­gramme com­prises four nu­clear pow­ered sub­marines. the last two sub­marines of the series code-named S-4 and S-4* will be the up­graded vari­ants of 7,000-tonnes with ad­vanced weaponry and will be armed with six mis­siles each as op­posed to four mis­siles each in InS Ari­hant and Arighat. th­ese two sub­marines are ex­pected to be launched around 20202022. In tan­dem the con­cept de­sign of much larger 13,500-tonne S-5 sub­marines is also un­der­way.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, In­dia has be­gun test­ing K-4 mis­siles with a strike range of 3,500km, which will be fol­lowed by K-5 and K-6 mis­siles in the strike range of 5,000-6,000km. the “K” series of SLBMs, in­ci­den­tally, are named after for­mer Pres­i­dent and the Mis­sile Man of In­dia, dr A.P.J. Ab­dul Kalam.

the crit­i­cal­ity of SLBMS for de­ter­rence can be gauged from the fact that even the US and rus­sia are en­sur­ing that al­most twothirds of the strate­gic war­heads they even­tu­ally re­tain un­der strate­gic arms re­duc­tion agree­ments are such mis­siles on SSBns.

In­dia does cur­rently op­er­ate a nu­cle­ar­pow­ered sub­ma­rine InS Chakra, ac­quired on a 10-year lease from Rus­sia, while fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way to ac­quire an­other such ves­sel for over $2 bil­lion soon. But th­ese sub­marines, armed with con­ven­tional cruise mis­siles, do not have nu­clear mis­siles be­cause of in­ter­na­tional treaties.

The Re­al­ity

Pass­ing through the stormy weath­ers, sev­eral phases of tri­als and tribu­la­tions In­dia in­deed has ar­rived at the pro­fessed mile­stone by be­com­ing the world’s sixth coun­try to suc­cess­fully op­er­a­tionalise a SSBn. the pipe-dream of the nation Builders is now trans­formed into re­al­ity. this is just the be­gin­ning of the strate­gic pro­gramme which has three more of the fol­low-on SSBns with far greater ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy up­grades, spec­i­fi­ca­tions, ca­pa­bil­i­ties, etc. op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of InS Ari­hant marks the grow­ing emi­nence of the in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­fra­struc­ture, in­dus­trial sup­port and above all the self-re­liance now in the con­struc­tion of strate­gic nu­clear sub­ma­rine pro­grammes.

The In­dige­nous Ca­pa­bil­ity

the top Se­cret Project was steered di­rectly un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice and in­volv­ing agen­cies and es­tab­lish­ments such as the de­fence re­search and de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion, the depart­ment of Atomic en­ergy, the Sub­ma­rine de­sign Group of the In­dian navy, direc­torate of naval de­sign. the pro­gramme was wholly sup­ported through de­sign con­sul­tancy, trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy, con­sul­tancy on con­struc­tion and in­fra­struc­ture cre­ation and de­vel­op­ment by the For­mer Soviet Union and the rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion.

while the time over-run and the cost over-run ad­versely im­pacted the pres­ti­gious project, it re­ceived un­stinted and con­tin­u­ous sup­port by suc­ces­sive Govern­ments of In­dia, many regime changes in the For­mer Soviet Union and the rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion never im­peded the time tested In­ter Gov­ern­men­tal Agree­ments. this turned out to be prov­i­den­tial for AtVP.

The most sig­nif­i­cant take away from the suc­cess of the Pro­gramme was the groom­ing and de­vel­op­ment of in­dige­nous pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies. Many engi­neer­ing giants with great sense of na­tional pride have par­tic­i­pated in the Pro­gramme. role and con­tri­bu­tions made by Larsen & Toubro be­fit­tingly de­serves spe­cial men­tion here. the Firm, be­sides mak­ing huge in­vest­ments in cre­ation of in­fra­struc­ture and spe­cific fa­cil­i­ties, tech­nolo­gies, niche ca­pa­bil­i­ties, etc. has re­mained an in­te­gral part of the Pro­gramme right from its in­cep­tion and con­tin­ues to be so even for the fol­low-on pro­gramme, as well. L&t has clearly emerged as a na­tional as­set as for the in­dige­nous sub­ma­rine con­struc­tion ca­pa­bil­ity is con­cerned.

“As a re­spon­si­ble nation, In­dia has put in place a ro­bust nu­clear com­mand and con­trol struc­ture, ef­fec­tive safety as­sur­ance ar­chi­tec­ture and strict po­lit­i­cal con­trol, un­der its Nu­clear Com­mand Author­ity.” —Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice

PHO­TO­GRAPH: naren­dramodi/twit­ter

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi con­grat­u­lat­ing the crew and an­nounc­ing that In­dia’s nu­clear sub­ma­rine INS Ari­hant has suc­cess­fully com­pleted its first de­ter­rence pa­trol

Prime Min­is­ter Modi be­ing fe­lic­i­tated by INS Ari­hant crew

PHO­TO­GRAPH: naren­dramodi/twit­ter

Prime Min­is­ter Modi ad­dress­ing the crew of INS Ari­hant

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