Power Under Water
Indigenously-Built Arihant Nuclear Submarine Activated

An artist (serving rear admiral) impression of the INS Arihant, Sketch India activated the atomic reactor on board INS Arihant early August. Calling it a ‘giant stride in the process of our indigenous technological capabilities’, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists, technologists and defence personnel after India’s first indigenous nuclear powered submarine achieved criticality. He also congratulated Department of Atomic Energy, Indian Navy and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The next major milestone will take place when Arihant begins its sea trials, which will be next month itself. The submarine will go for extensive sea trials before it becomes operational with the Indian Navy; this could happen in the next two years.

Now India joins the elite club of the US, the UK, France, Russia and China as this is the first ballistic missile submarine known to have been built outside the five nuclear powers. With the induction of INS Chakra last year, India became the sixth country to operate nuclear-powered submarines.

While conventional diesel electric submarines have to come up to the surface at regular intervals for charging the cells of the vessel, nuclear submarines can stay under water for long durations without the need to surface the vessel. This capability can help India significantly. Arihant is a ballistic-missile armed submarine which bears the USN designation SSBN (or ‘boomer’) and carries a battery of vertically launched missiles armed with nuclear warheads. Arihant’s ballistic missiles weigh 15-20 tonnes and are meant to deliver powerful nuclear warheads to (eventually) intercontinental ranges.

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