VISAKHAPATNAM: There’s still a long way to go for INS Arihant to become fully-operational.
“Each and every system has to be tested and flushed clean. It will take four sets of flushing and a year before the miniature 80 MW nuclear reactor, and its containment vessel fitted in the submarine’s hull, attains criticality,” said a senior officer connected with the ATV (advanced technology vessel) project.
Moreover, at present, it will be armed with only the 700-km range two-stage K-15 SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), which pale in comparison to the well over 5,000-km
range missiles of the US, Russia and China.
The Chinese fleet of 62 submarines, with at least 10 of them nuclear-powered, for instance,
is readying itself for its new JL-2 SLBM, which has a strike range of over 7,200-km, capable
of rattling even the US. India is still some distance away from the extended range K-5
missile with a 3,500-km strike range.
Be that as it may, India with INS Arihant has taken a big leap forward towards developing
the all-important third leg of its nuclear triad — the ability to fire nukes from the land, air and sea. The first two legs, in the shape of fighters like Mirage-2000s jury-rigged to deliver nuclear warheads and the Agni series of rail and road mobile missiles, are already in place.
What makes a nuclear submarine the most preferred option is that it’s extremely difficult to
detect and target by an adversary. Unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines, a nuclear-powered submarine can operate underwater for unlimited periods of time. This is especially important for a country like India, which has a declared no-first-use nuclear doctrine and, hence, must have a survivable and lethal second-strike capability to retaliate against a conceivable first pre-emptive strike by an enemy.
The PM clarified, “We do not have any aggressive designs, nor do we seek to threaten anyone.” He added, “We seek an external environment in our region and beyond that which is conducive to our peaceful development and the protection of our value systems. Nevertheless, it’s incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country and to keep pace with technological developments worldwide. It has been rightly said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Obliquely pointing to the two more ATVs already sanctioned by the government under a budget
of around Rs 30,000 crore and much bigger SSBNs after them, the PM said the “lessons learnt
from this launch” would enable the ATV programme to “achieve better results in the coming years”.
Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, said INS Arihant was a “significant step” towards
a potent and credible second-strike capability. The PM, Antony, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh
Mehta, DAE chief Anil Kakodkar, ATV director-general Vice-Admiral (retd) D S P Verma praised Russia for their “consistent and invaluable cooperation” in India’s nuclear submarine
What was left unsaid was that India would also get an Akula-II class nuclear submarine, the
12,000-tonne ‘K-152 Nerpa’, on a 10-year lease by end-2009 as part of a secret contract
signed with Russia in January 2004, along with the package deal for refit of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and MiG-29K fighters. India’s eventual goal is to field three SSBNs of its own much before 2020.
(Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA)