By Future Directions
A recent report stated that India’s second nuclear-powered ballistic submarine (SSBN) is scheduled to be inducted into the Indian Navy later this year. The future INS Arighat will be India’s second SSBN, following the INS Arihant, which was launched in 2009 for sea trials and commissioned in 2016.
Despite the extra-long testing period and some Keystone Cops-like misadventures – it was reported in 2018, for example, that the Arihant’s propulsion compartment was damaged by water which flooded in after a hatch at the rear was left open while moored and, in 2014, a worker was killed during pressure tests on the hull – the Indian Navy appears to have been sufficiently satisfied with its performance as to launch the Arighat, the second boat in the Arihant class, in 2017 and begin sea trials. With the Arighat’s commissioning expected later this year, India’s SSBN programme appears to be underway.
Despite the publicity given to the launch and induction of the Arihant, details about it are scarce. It has a displacement of around 6,000 tonnes and only four missile tubes. That deficiency would indicate that the Arihant is more a technology demonstrator than a vessel that could actually be used for its designed purpose.
In any case, India lacks a proven underwater-launched missile that could be fitted to the Arihant (the K15 Sagarika intermediate-range nuclear-capable missile has been launched from underwater platforms but not, as far as is known, from a submarine) or, for that matter, the Arighat, which shares its physical dimensions and also has four missile tubes. The two further SSBNs that are to be constructed will have, however, a displacement of 7,000 tonnes and eight missile tubes.
Apart from being confident in their ability to build a second SSBN, India’s naval project managers also appear to have the confidence to modify their original design.