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Arihant – India’s first indigenous Nuclear Submarine

Thangai VS Annan

India on 8.08.2012 said its first home-built nuclear submarine was set for sea trials, as it detailed billion-dollar projects to arm its navy with warships, aircraft and modern weaponry.

The indigenous 6,000-ton INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was unveiled in 2009 as part of a project to construct five such vessels which would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles and torpedoes.

“Arihant is steadily progressing towards operationalisation, and we hope to commence sea trials in the coming months,” Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters.

“Our maritime and nuclear doctrine will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea,” Verma said.

Arihant is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots), according to defence officials. It will carry a 95-member crew.

The Indian Navy inducted a Russian-leased nuclear submarine (INS Chakra) into service in April 2012, joining China, France, the United States, Britain and Russia in the elite club of countries with nuclear-powered vessels.

Verma said 43 warships were currently under construction at local shipyards while the first of six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines under contract would join the Indian navy in 2015 and the sixth by 2018.

The admiral said the navy was also poised to induct eight Boeing long-range maritime reconnaissance P-8I aircraft next year.

Arihant class submarines

The Arihant class submarines are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarinesunder development by the Indian Navy. The lead vessel of the class, INS Arihant, is expected to complete its harbour acceptance trials in February 2012. Four vessels of the class are under development and expected to be in commission by 2015.

The Arihant class vessels are India’s first indigenously designed and built nuclear submarine.They were developed under the US$2.9 billion Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to design and build nuclear-powered submarines.

Tech specs

The Arihant class submarines are reported to be comparable to the Charlie II class submarines, which India leased from the Soviet Union between 1988 and 1991. Their crew will have the opportunity to train on INS Chakra, which the Indian Navy leased from Russia.

The Arihant class submarines are powered by an 83 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) with highly enriched uranium fuel. The miniaturized naval-version of the reactor was designed and built by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam. A land-based prototype of the marine PWR was first built at Kalpakkam. It included a 42-meter section of the submarine’s pressure hull containing the shielding tank with water and the reactor, a control room, as well as an auxiliary control room for monitoring safety parameters. The prototype reactor became critical on 11 November 2003 and was declared operational on 22 September 2006.  Successful operation of the prototype for three years yielded the data and the confidence that enabled the production version of the reactor for Arihant.

Separately, infrastructure for testing the reactor subsystems was setup at the Machinery Test Centre in Visakhapatnam. Facilities for loading and replacing the fuel cores of the naval reactors in berthed submarines were also established at the Ship Building Centre.

The hulls for this class were built by Larsen and Toubro at their Hazira shipbuilding facility. The hull features twin flank-array sonars and Rafael broadband expendable anti-torpedo countermeasures. Tata Power SED built the control systems for the submarine. The steam turbines and associated systems integrated with the PWR were supplied by Walchandnagar Industries.

The submarines have four launch tubes in their hump. They can carry up to 12 K-15 Sagarika missiles with 8 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV) each (with a range of 750 km), or 4 of the under-development K-4 missiles (with a range of 3,500 km).

INS Chakra-Russia made nuclear submarine

The INS Chakra is a 8,140-tonne (8,010-long-ton) Project 971 Akula class submarine type nuclear-powered attack submarine. Construction was started in 1993, but suspended due to lack of funding. It was launched as the K-152 Nerpa in October 2008 and entered service with the Russian Navy in late 2009. The submarine was leased to the Indian Navy in 2011 and was formally commissioned into service as the INS Chakra II at a ceremony in Visakhapatnam on 4 April, 2012.The INS Chakra joins the Eastern Naval Command at Vishakhapatnam.

Quick facts about Chakra

  • Unlike conventional submarines that India operates which need to surface to charge their batteries often – sometimes as frequently as 24 hours – INS Chakra can stay under as long as it wants. Its ability to stay underwater is restrained only by human endurance to stay underwater. Also, another problem that the submarine could face is acidity. This is because of a lack of exercise inside due to prolonged deployments.
  • The Akula Class submarine will carry conventional weapons. The vessel is armed with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes. It will be used to hunt and kill enemy ships.
  • The INS Chakra displaces about 10,000 tons. It can do over 30 knots – more than twice the speed of conventional submarines. It can go up to a depth of 600 metres.
  • INS Chakra is one of the quietest nuclear submarines around, with noise levels next to zero.
  • It has about 80 crew members on board. The entire crew of INS Chakra has been trained in Russia for over a year. Facilities for the crew on board INS Chakra include a large recreation area, a gymnasium and a sauna as well.
  • INS Chakra has been taken on lease from Russia for 10 years and would provide the Navy the opportunity to train personnel and operate such nuclear-powered vessels. In 2004, India had signed a deal with Russia worth over $900 million for leasing the submarine. INS Chakra was expected to be inducted into Indian Navy a couple of years ago, but after an on-board accident in 2008, in which several Russian sailors died, the delivery schedule was changed.
  • The induction of the nuclear-powered submarine clearly indicates India’s intentions in the Indian Ocean Region and South East Asia which has recently seen increasing assertive Chinese presence in the last few months. It will also a send a strong reassuring message to south east Asian nations like Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia who want India to play a more active role in the region to counter the assertiveness of China in the area.

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