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“INS ARIHANT” INDIA’s First Nuclear Submarine

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August 2009
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India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine in a ceremony in southern port city of Vishakhapatnam 0n 26 July 2009, becoming one of just six nations in the world to have successfully built one. The 367-foot long INS Arihant, which means “Destroyer of the Enemies” in Hindi according to the official news release. The name Arihant has its origins in the Jain religion, and unofficial news reports stating “Destroyer of Enemies” omitting the definite article. India became the sixth country in the world to have built one. Besides the US, which has 74 nuclear submarines, Russia (45), UK (13), France (10) and China (10) also possess nuclear-powered submarines – the US has nearly as many nuclear submarines as all other countries combined.

India is a nation that struggled to enter the select group of countries that build nuclear powered submarines. Its program ATV, or Advanced Technology Vessel, was initiated in 1974. But after three decades it had not presented results that could modify the current picture of the navies with nuclear propulsion.

The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear submarine that was till now known by the code name S 2, was launched at a simple ceremony in the port town of Visakhapatnam [Vizac] with the traditional breaking of a coconut on its hull by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife, Gursharan Kaur. It was expected to be ready for induction into the Navy by 2011 after a series of exhaustive trials.

The launch ceremony was attended by the prime Minister. Dr. Manmohan Singh, accompanied by Smt. Gursharan Kaur, Raksha Mantri Shri.AK Antony, Chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr. YS Rajasekhar Reddy, Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri MM Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Smt. D Purandareswari, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta and high ranking officials from the Navy, Department of Atomic Energy, and Defence Research and Development Organisation.


On this occasion, the Prime Minister congratulated the Director General of the ATV (Advanced Technology vehicle) Program Vice Admiral DSP Verma (Retd) and all personnel associated with it for achieving this historic milestone in the country’s defence preparedness. He noted that they had overcome several hurdles and barriers to enable the country to acquire self reliance in the most advanced areas of defence technology. The Prime Minister made a special mention of the cooperation extended by Russia. The Prime Minister stated that the Government is fully committed to ensuring the Defence of our national interests and the protection of our territorial integrity. The Government would render all support to the constant modernization of our defence forces and to ensuring that they remain at the cutting edge of technology.

The project director, Vice Admiral (retd) D S P Verma, said that the Arihant is a 6,000-tonne submarine with a length of 110 meters and a breadth of 11 meters. The length is about 10 percent longer than previously published estimates, while the 11 meter beam is much less than the 15 meters of previous un-offcial estimates. Experts say the vessel will be able to carry 12 K 15 submarine launched ballistic missiles that have a range of over 700 km. The Indian nuclear powered attack submarine design was said in some reports to have a 4,000-ton displacement and a single-shaft nuclear power plant of Indian origin. By other accounts it would be 9,400 tons displacement when submerged and 124 meters long.

The MoD/PMO decided not to release any photographs of the submarine, and no filming or photography by the media was permitted inside the Matsya Dock. One report stated that the submarine was visibly based on the Russian Borei-class SSBN, and claimed that the official invitation had a silhouette of the submarine indicating that it’s almost definitely based on the Borei. But the 935 Borei has a length of 170 meters (580 feet), a beam of 13 meters (42 feet), and a displacement of 11,750-12,250 tons Surfaced and 17,000 tons Submerged.

India has been working actively since 1985 to develop an indigenously constructed nuclear-powered submarine, one that was possibly based on elements of the Soviet Charlie II-class design, detailed drawings of which are said to have been obtained from the Soviet Union in 1989. This project illustrates India’s industrial capabilities and weaknesses. The secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to provide nuclear propulsion for Indian submarines has been one of the more ill-managed projects of India.With the participation of involved Russian scientists and technician in the diverse phases of the program, came the possibility of that the first Indian submarine with nuclear propulsion can be operational in 2009, having been launched in 2006-2007.

Although India has the capability of building the hull and developing or acquiring the necessary sensors, its industry had been stymied by several system integration and fabrication problems in trying to downsize a 190 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) to fit into the space available within the submarine’s hull. The Proto-type Testing Centre (PTC) at the Indira Gandhi Centre For Atomic Research. Kalpakkam, was used to test the submarine’s turbines and propellers. A similar facility is operational at Vishakapatnam to test the main turbines and gear box.

In 1998, L&T began fabricating the hull of ATV but the struggle with the reactor continued. After BARC designs failed, India bought reactor designs from Russia. By 2004 the reactor had been built, tested on land at the IGCAR and had gone critical. Its modest size, around 6,000 tons (the Ohio class SSBN in the movie Crimson Tide weighs over 14,000 tons), led experts to call it a “baby boomer”.

India had ample experience building Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) using natural un-enriched uranium as fuel, and heavy water as moderator and coolant. But this was the first time that India has built a PWR that used enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both coolant and moderator. The electrical power reactors that India would be importing (potentially from Russia, France, and the US) would also be PWRs with enriched uranium as fuel, and light water as both coolant and moderator. Naval nuclear reactors typically use uranium that is enriched to much higher levels than is the case with shore-based power reactors.

While the present project reportedly ends at three units, defence officials have not ruled out building larger submarines on the basis of national strategic imperatives. These have changed since the conception of the project. By the time the first unit was launched in July 2009, the construction of the hull for the next one was reportedly already underway at the Larson and Toubro (L&T) facility at Hazira where the first hull was built. The cost of the three submarines was reported at over Rs3,000 crore, over US$600,000,000 [the Indian numbering system is denominated in Crore 1,00,00,000 and Lakhs 1,00,000, so Rs3,000 crore is Rs30,000,000,000, or US$623,104,807.77 the day INS Arihant was launched]. Another report said that the first submarine alone had cost Rs. 14,000 Crore [$US2.9 billion]. In April 2006, the larger American Virginia-class subs were priced at $2.4 billion apiece, at which time the goal was to cut the program’s cost to about $2 billion per sub. The $2 billion figure is a baseline expressed in fiscal 2005 dollars. As of late 2008 the Procurement Cost for the first three units of the British Astute class SSN was forecast at £3,806 M (outturn prices) [US$6,275 B at 2009 conversion rates], for a unit cost of about US$2.1 billion.

The three submarines would be based at a facility being developed at Rambilli close to Vishakpatnam, where hundreds of acres of land had already been acquired. The Indian Navy hoped to commission the base by 2011 in time for INS Arihant’s commissioning, and two of these submarines would be at sea at any given time while the third would be in maintenance at the base. Other reports claim that India plans to build a fleet of five nuclear-powered submarines. On report in 2009 stated that the government had given clearance for the construction of much bigger SSBNs, nuclear-powered submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles, each of them costing about $2 billion (approximately Rs 10,000 crore each). This would take off once the three Arihant class submarines were ready.

By 2004 it was reported that the first ATV would be launched by 2007. At that time it was reported that it would be an SSGN and displacing some 6,500 tons, with a design derivative of Russia’s Project 885 Severodvinsk-class (Yasen) SSN. The ATV multirole platform would be employed for carrying out long-distance interdiction and surveillance of both submerged targets as well as principal surface combatants. It would also facilitate Special Forces operations by covertly landing such forces ashore. The ATV pressure hull will be fabricated with the HY-80 steel obtained from Russia.

This would have the possibility of multiple performance: it could use missiles of cruise of average reach (1,000 km), ballistic missiles of short reach (300 km), torpedoes and mines, besides participating of operations special.

The ATV is said to be a modified Akula-I class submarine. The Russian Akula-2 and Yasen are also modified Akula-1. By this line of reasoning the ATV would be in league of Yasen, so the ATV would be 6500 tons light, 8500 tons armed and surfaced and 10000 tons submerged. It would be the biggest and heaviest combat naval vessel built in India to date.

The 100-member crew, which will man the submarine, was trained at an indigenously-developed simulator in the School for Advanced Underwater Warfare (SAUW) at the naval base in Vizag. Hands-on training will be done on the INS Chakra, a 12,000-tonne Akula-II class nuclear-powered attack submarine being taken on a 10-year lease from Russia. SBC in Vizag is to become the assembly line for three ATVs, costing a little over Rs 3,000 crore each or the cost of a 37,000 ton indigenous aircraft carrier built at the Cochin Shipyard. Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has begun building the hull of the second ATV at its facility in Hazira, to be inducted into the navy by 2012.

As of 2007 the first of the five long-delayed ATVs was scheduled to be fully-ready by 2010 or so. In August 2008 it was reported that on January 26, 2009, the sluice gates of an enclosed dry-dock in Visakhapatnam were to be opened and the world was to take its first look at India’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), as it entered the waters.

In February 2009 defence minister A K Antony confirmed that India’s nuclear-powered submarine is in the final stages. “The Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project is in the final stage. We had some problems with the raw material in the initial phase. But now the project is in its final stage,” he said at the ongoing Aero-India show. This was a rare admission by the defence minister – not only on the existence of the secretive project to build an indigenous nuclear submarine, but also on its developmental status. The submarine, modelled on the Russian Charlie class submarine, is slated for a sea trial in 2009. Officials in the navy and atomic energy department are hopeful of meeting the deadline this time. In the long run, the government plans to buy three nuclear submarines to provide the navy with capability to stay underwater for a very long time. Though defence and nuclear sccientists have been working on this project since 1985, they had initial setbacks with the material and miniaturisation of the nuclear reactor whih will be fitted into the submarine’s hull.



  1. ocel says:

    interesting post, can it betwites with other methods here?

  2. Dr. Rahul Bose says:

    China claims she has nuclear powered submarines. But in reality she has no aircraft carriers and nuclear powered submarines. India should also receive the lethal Akula-2 submarine soon from Russia.

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  4. sameer says:

    india needs to think big. it would be unfair if before the launch of first submarine we talk of limiting production to three submarines. our adversaries, known and unknown , will not freeze their technology or assets at the current level. safeguarding the nation is a constant process and this needs to be done first before anything else.

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