In times of surgical strikes against Pakistan and China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, a major triumph for India is the commissioning of the INS Arihant. The formidable submarine, having completed several trials so far, was quietly commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August this year.
With the news of India joining the elite league of countries with superior nuclear capabilities, The Quint decided to break down what this means for the country.
What is the INS Arihant?
Arihant is a 6,000-tonne ‘Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear Submarine’ (SSBN) that is capable of carrying ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. It’s India’s first indigenously built nuclear submarine.
Now that it has reportedly been inducted into service, the prefix INS — Indian Naval Ship — can officially be added to its name.
The Arihant was launched into the water in 2009, at the ship-building centre in Visakhapatnam. In 2013, the nuclear reactor of the submarine went ‘critical’. Since then, the submarine has undergone numerous trials including missile firing trials as early as March this year.
Arihant is integrated with the 'K' series of missiles, which are named after former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Why Is It Important?
Adding Arihant to India's naval fleet is significant in light of the poor availability of other submarines.
Only seven submarines are available for deployment, though India owns 14 conventional submarines. These submarines that are available also have to be split on either coasts. They’re run on either battery or diesel and have already completed a life-span of 20 years or more, on average.
The availability is infrequent as they need to be serviced or refitted. Most importantly, with the induction of INS Arihant, India completes its ‘nuclear triad.’
What Is a Nuclear Triad?
A nuclear triad allows a country to launch nukes from all three key defence bastions — land, air and sea.
The idea of a triad is that each wing of nuclear defence is powerful enough to stand on its own. Any one strike on the country, therefore, cannot destroy all three wings of the triad. If for instance, one or even two of the wings are destroyed, the third can launch a retaliatory strike.
Who Else Is Equipped With a Nuclear Triad?
The US, Russia and now most recently China have nuclear-armed submarines in operation.
More importantly however, in 2015, Pakistan made an agreement with China to buy eight conventional submarines.
North Korea too has claimed to have tested a submarine-launched missile. Much to the concern of the rest of the world, North Korea said it has developed technology that would allow it to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
The Policy of ‘No First Use’
The INS Arihant is designed specially to be in deep ocean waters carrying nuclear weapons and provides a guaranteed ‘second strike’ capability to the country i.e it can hit back after being attacked by a nuclear weapon.
This is important because India, as part of its nuclear doctrine, follows a ‘no first use’ policy, a practice that Pakistan has refused to adopt.
Arihant – India's Well-Guarded Secret
The Arihant has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery for decades. In fact, while in development it was called by a pseudonym — the ‘Sagarika Project’.
Work on developing the Arihant is believed to have started in the 1980s, with the help of the Soviet Union.
Russia is known to have helped scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in miniaturising the reactor so it could fit into the 10-metre-wide cavity in the submarine.
INS Arihant is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core which was developed with extensive help by the Russians.
Not unlike other submarines, Arihant’s location will be top secret and the submarine will perhaps be constantly moved around.
But, Should We Be Happy Just With This?
The INS Arihant, while a superior and skilled platform, can only be as good as the weapon it can fire. At the moment, it's integrated with the K-15 missile. The K-4 missiles, which would be a better fit, are yet to be introduced.
While India should be proud of this 'Made in India' submarine, the country continues to import even items as modest as revolvers and automatic rifles like the Kalashnikov.
Though ‘Mission Arihant’ seems to have been accomplished, there is still a long way to go.