By Ms Uma Kabe, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society
“Of all the branches of the men in the forces, there is no one which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners”
India’s first indigenously constructed Strategic Strike Sub Surface Ballistic Nuclear Submarine (SSBN), Indian Naval Ship (INS) Arihant (S2), was launched at the Naval Dockyard at Visakhapatnam on 26 July 2009, by the then Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to commemorate the anniversary of Kargil War- celebrated as Vijay Diwas. Post the activation of the atomic reactor in 2013 and extensive sea trials thereafter, the vessel was commissioned into the Indian Navy (IN) in 2016 by Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. The indigenous construction of INS Arihant helped India strengthen its defence and strategic planning while reinforcing its maritime standing. India was the only country to develop a nuclear submarine apart from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Manufactured under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project, INS Arihant, the lead vessel of its class, was collectively constructed by IN, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and a few Russian designers.[i] Tata Power and Larsen and Toubro (L&T) have also significantly contributed to the development of this Submarine.
Developed under the ‘military modernisation programme’, India’s plans to acquire and induct a nuclear-powered submarine can be traced back to the time when then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi sanctioned funds for the construction of this submarine from secret funds in 1970. Design and technology plans were finalised in 1984 while the submarine construction commenced in 1998.[ii] However, the Ship Building Centre (SBC) took 11 years to finally launch the vessel.[iii] The construction, commissioning, testing and status of the SSBNs are directly under the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) or the Strategic Nuclear Command (SNC), which is under the control of the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).[iv]
Designed based on the Russian Akula-1 Class Submarine, the 6,000-tonne SSBN primarily targeted towards self-defence has derived its name from two Sanskrit words ‘Ari’ which indicate enemy and ‘Hant’ which implies to destroy.[v] Therefore INS Arihant manifests as ‘Destroyer of the Enemy’.
In comparison to the other nuclear ballistic missile submarines, INS Arihant is smaller as it measures 110 metres in length and 11 metres in breadth.[vi] It is capable to support a crew of 95 personnel on board. The average speed of INS Arihant is 12-15 knots when surfaced and 24 knots when submerged.[vii] S2 capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles from land, air and sea plays a major role as a sea-based nuclear deterrent. It has, therefore, established India as a nuclear triad. Fitted with an 83MW nuclear power reactor which enables the vessel to remain submerged for a longer duration, INS Arihant is capable of diving deep up to 300 metres. It is equipped to carry the 700km range, 12 Sagarika K-15 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) or 4 K-4 long-range missiles which are also indigenously developed.[viii]
Being an SSBN drastically differentiates INS Arihant from the other SSK class submarines which use the diesel-electric engine as their power source. Its torpedo tube arrangement and interceptor sonar arrangement highlight its uniqueness from the Kilo Class Submarines. However, INS Arihant’s upper sonar dome on top of the bow, the hull diameter and the presence of the USHUS sonar draw its connection to the Sindhughosh class submarine.
India remains committed to its no-first-use nuclear policy. As nuclear submarines can remain submerged for a longer duration they act as the best-suited potent platforms for a ‘second strike’ in case of a nuclear attack.
[i] Arihant Class Submarine, ‘Naval technology’, August 2009, accessed 22 July 2022.
[ii] INS Arihant is now operational: All about India’s nuclear deterrent in the sea, November 2018, accessed 22 July 2022.
[iii] INS Arihant is now operational: All about India’s nuclear deterrent in the sea, November 2018, accessed 22 July 2022.
[iv] Sumit Bhatacharjee, ‘Third Arihant Class Submarine quietly launched in November’, The Hindu, January 2022, accessed 25 July 2022.
[v] Arihant Class Submarine, ‘Naval technology’, August 2009, accessed 22 July 2022.
[vi] INS Arihant: a warship that can dive to 300 metres, remain underwater for months, The Economic Times’, November 2018, accessed 22 July 2022.
[vii] Arihant Class Subamrine, ‘‘Naval technology’, August 2009, accessed 25 July 2022.
[viii] INS Arihant: a warship that can dive to 300 metres, remain underwater for months, The Economic Times’, November 2018, accessed 22 July 2022.