India’s sole submarine that can carry nuclear missiles has already stopped sailing 10 months ago after a major damage, some sources in the Navy said. It is said that the water entered into the propulsion compartment due to a human error was the major reason behind its damage. Till now The Ministry of Defence did not respond to the news.
Why Arihant is strategically important?
INS Arihant is a 100% Indigenous nuclear submarine. A land-based prototype of the reactor was first built at Kalpakkam and made operational in September 2006. Successful operation over a period of three years yielded the data that enabled the production version for Arihant. It was reported that this vessel will be powered by an 83 megawatts (111,305 hp) pressurised light-water reactor with enriched uranium fuel. Arihant is the most important platform within India’s nuclear triad covering land-air-sea modes.
The absence of Arihant from operations came to the political leadership’s attention during the India-China military standoff at Doklam. Whenever such faceoff takes place, countries carry out precautionary advance deployment of submarine assets. Arihant was launched on 26 July 2009, the anniversary of Vijay Diwas (Kargil War Victory Day) by then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh. After fitting out and extensive sea trials, on 23 February 2016, she was confirmed as ready for operations, and was commissioned in August 2016.
Arihant has four vertical launch tubes, which can carry 12 (three per launch tube) smaller K-15 missiles or four larger K-4 missiles. The K-4 has a longer range of 3,500 km. The sea trials will include the firing of the indigenous submarine-launched ballistic missiles & cruise missiles.
How the damage happened?
A naval source said water rushed in as a hatch on the rear side was left open by mistake while it was at harbour.
Since the accident, the submarine, built under the Advanced Technology Vessel project (ATV), has been undergoing repairs and cleans up, the sources said. “Cleaning up” is a laborious task in a nuclear submarine, the naval source said. During this process apart from the repair work, replacement of the parts also takes place. That may lead to new complications.
INS Arihant and INK Chakra
The Arihant issue rose soon after INS Chakra, the Nerpa class nuclear submarine leased from Russia, was reported to have suffered damage to its sonar domes while entering the Visakhapatnam harbour in early October.
INK Chakra was commissioned to Indian Navy on December 30, 2011. As of 2008, according to an agreement with Russia to lease K-152 Nerpa for 10 years to India at an estimated cost of US$670 million. This submarine was handed over to India on 30 December 2011. After being handed over to the Indian Navy, it was commissioned as INS Chakra. However, INS Chakra has only a peripheral role like training and escorting. But Arihant is more important as it is the one that will carry nuclear missiles.
After that, the submarine was towed to an enclosed pier for extensive harbour trials from the dry docks at Ship Building Centre, away from public view. Arihant was quietly commissioned into service in August 2016 and its induction is still not officially acknowledged. It is powered by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor with enriched uranium.
Arihant has been immobilized even as the second ballistic missile submarine, Arighat, was launched on Novermber 19 for sea trials. The launch was kept a low profile event due to the damage of Arihant. A high profile launch to be attended by Prime Minister Modi was put off.
India had an ambitious plan to build a SSBN fleet, comprising five Arihant-class vessels. But Navy now postponed this plan due to the damage of Arihant. Some top sources of defence said that the cost of making a single Arihant was estimated as Rs.3,000 crore but the actual cost has already gone over 14,000.
Now the big question unanswered is that as the stand-off with neighbouring countries are worsening, how can India respond if India’s most dependable platform for a second-strike, INS Arihant, is under damage?