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First N-Submarine Launched:INDIA UPS ANTE ON COASTAL SECURITY,Radhakrishna Rao, 3 August 2009 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 3 August 2009

First N-Submarine Launched


By Radhakrishna Rao

India’s first indigenously developed nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant (destroyer of enemies)equipped with twelve K-15 ballistic  missile  with a range of 700-kms was launched on 26 July by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Speaking at the function held as part of the launching of the submarine at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam, the Prime Minister observed that India had finally joined the elite group of five countries, US, UK, Russia, France and China, capable of building nuclear-powered under-sea vessels.

The 110-mt long, 11-metre wide INS Arihant capable of displacing 6,000 tons of water will have to go through harbour, sea and weapons trials before becoming fully operational and this process is expected to take a minimum of two years for completion.

Designed and  developed by the Indian Navy, the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with Russian assistance and participation of a number of Indian industries, the INS Arihant powered with a 85-MW miniaturized nuclear reactor can acquire  surface speeds of 22-28 kmph and submerged speed of up to 44-kmph.

Incidentally, Manmohan Singh and Defence  Minister Antony made a special mention of the of the Russian contribution that helped India realize a ”historic milestone” in the challenging enterprise  of building a nuclear  submarine through the route of public-private partnership.

Significantly, the INS Arihant, which marks 25 years long diligent research work and determined developmental efforts, in the face of a global technology denial regime, was originally conceived in 1971 after China launched its own nuclear submarine. However, the development of the submarine could only be taken up in 1984 as part of the Advanced Technology vessel (ATC) project with the support of the erstwhile Soviet Union. But its break-up in the early 1990s slowed down the INS Arihant’s development. Asserted Vice Admiral (Rtd) D.S.P.Verma, who heads the ATV project, “Because of the technology denial, everything was built from a scratch”.

Importantly, the Prime Minister underscored the need for vigilant coastal security. Said he: “The sea is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of India’s security interests and we must readjust our military preparedness to this changing environment.”

Clearly, the INS Arihant has helped India take a major step towards completing the third leg of its nuclear triad — the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea. The first two legs of the triad in the form of bombers like the SU-30MKI capable of delivering nuclear weapons and Agni series of road and rail mobile missiles are already in place.

As it is, the doctrine of nuclear triad is quite crucial to India’s defence since the country has declared the “no first use of nuclear weapons.” By all count, our weapons system should be sturdy enough to survive the impact of a first strike for immediate retaliation.

Eventually, the US$2.9b Arihant will have its K-15 ballistic missiles (also called Sagarika) replaced by a 3,500-km range K-X class missile. “This is a very big capability. It means we can launch missiles with nuclear warheads from ground, drop nuclear bombs from air and also fire them from under sea” said sources in the DRDO.

As things stand now, the INS Arihant could help India possess a blue water navy capable of exercising its influence over a vast stretch of the oceanic waters. For this leviathan packed with a miniature nuclear reactor can keep moving stealthily in the depth of water for a long time.

In distinct contrast, a diesel-powered submarine which is required to move up to the surface everyday for ejecting carbon dioxide produced by the generator and recharging can easily be detected by the adversaries. Pointed out a DRDO official, “The turbine operating on enriched uranium in the INS Arihant is a clean system. But a diesel generator emits carbon dioxide. You cannot discharge it into the water. So the submarine has to be brought up to the surface every day to eject carbon dioxide into the atmosphere”.

Alarmed by the massive Chinese naval build-up, India has unveiled a plan to posses three more nuclear submarines modeled on the Russian Akula class under-sea  vessels to realize its goal of Blue Water Navy equipped with a second strike capability.

However, India’s submarine fleet pales into insignificance compared to the over 100 submarines, including many nuclear-powered submarines, being operated by the Chinese navy which is now preparing to challenge the US dominance of the global oceanic waters.  

On its part, New Delhi has entered into an agreement with Moscow for the leasing of two nuclear-power Nerpa submarines for a period of 10 years. The delivery schedule of the Nerpa to the Indian navy has been hit by a mishap the Russian nuke submarine sustained during under-sea trials.

Besides, a number of Indian private sector companies have significantly contributed to the realization of the Arihant. The heavy engineering giant L&T’s Hazira complex began steel-cutting for the submarine’s construction in 1998 when former President Kalam was the Defence Minister’s scientific adviser. 

According to L&T sources, its submarine design centre used the latest 3D modeling and product data management software. “Launching the Arihant is a great event for the nation because we are in the select club of countries having a nuclear-powered submarine” said Dr.A.Sivathanu Pillai, DRDO’s Chief Controller (Research and Development).

The 85 MW Pressurized Heavy Water (PHW) reactor for the submarine was designed and developed by BARC. Though the country has rich experience in building PHW rectors based on natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as coolant, the reactor used in the INS Arihant utilizes enriched uranium as fuel and light water as both coolant and moderator. There is no gainsaying, this is the first time that India’s nuclear establishment has built such a reactor.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has termed the induction of INS Arihant into the Indian Navy as a “destabilizing step” and said it was capable of defending itself in the face of all such challenges .A statement issued by Pakistan’s External Affairs Ministry in Islamabad said, “without entering into an arms race with India, Pakistan will take all appropriate steps to safeguard its security and maintain strategic balance in South Asia”. ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)



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