INS Arihant is the lead ship of India’s Arihant class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The 6,000 tonne vessel was built under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project at the Ship Building Centre in the port city of Visakhapatnam.
Arihant was launched on 26 July 2009, the anniversary of Vijay Diwas (Kargil War Victory Day) by Former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. As of November 2015, it was still undergoing sea trials, and is expected to join the Indian Naval fleet in February 2016 during the International Fleet Review 2016.
Constituted in the late 1980’s, the main aim of the project was to equip India with a second strike platform capable of launching retaliatory strikes against hostile states.
India realized the significance of deterrence during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, US in support of its ally Pakistan dispatched ‘Task force 74’ led by USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal to intervene in India’s fight for Bangladesh. Realizing the immense fire power the carrier group, India requested the intervention of Russia which dispatched its nuclear powered submarines to trial the task force. It was only for the interference of the Soviet’s the day was saved for India.
Soon India setup the Advanced Technology Vessels (ATV) project with the sole purpose of constructing nuclear powered submarines which could carry nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. The exact events pertaining to the project was shrouded in secrecy and not much is known about the vessels constructed under the program. The project was cleared as a ‘black project’ and was put under direct control of the PMO. The project is believed to be cleared in the early 90’s and was accelerated soon after India successfully completed ‘Smiling Buddha’.
The major hurdle in realizing the project was miniaturizing the nuclear reactor for powering the submarine. India’s leading atomic research organization, ‘BARC’ was put in charge of designing and fabricating a nuclear reactor to power the submarine. BARC designed, pressurized water reactor (PWR) using enriched uranium as fuel at its Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research Centre at Kalpakkam. The reactor was capable of producing 83 MW of power and was labelled ‘S-1’ and consisted of the reactor, control systems and the shielding tank, the reactor went critical on 11th November 2013.
The state owned shipyard HSL, Vizag was put in charge of the project. The work on the submarine began at a fully enclosed dry dock at Vishakhapatnam. At the heart of the sub was a 83 MW PWR reactor and the sub itself was designed based on the Russian Akula class submarine. Leading private industries were also extensively involved in the project, L&T provided the hull, BEL and HEC was crucial in developing the reactor and shielding compartments, Tata power pitched in with its high end control systems.
The lead vessel of the class ‘INS Arihant’ was launched on 25th July 2009 at Vishakhapatnam. Dedicating the submarine to the nation, PM openly acknowledged and lauded sustained Russian support for the program. The submarine then underwent an extensive fitting out process and by the late 2012 was then moved to docks for sustained harbour trials for system tests and validation. The submarine underwent repeated controlled submerged tests for hull pressure tests. The submarine was repeatedly put through extensive tests to analyse its high pressure capabilities.
The reactor of ‘INS Arihant’ went critical on 10th August 2013 and was tested for operational levels in validation tests that lasted for almost a year. After completing its harbour trials the submarine floated out of Vishakhapatnam harbour on 13th December 2014 on its own power. The submarine has now entered its final phase of testing, the sub will now be tested to its maximum dive depth and will also fire the K-15 missiles.
The Arihant class submarine is the smallest boomer in the world and India is the only nation apart from the P-5 to have successfully developed a SSBN. Arihant class submarines will be equipped with at least 12 K-15 ‘Sagarika’ missiles, developed by India’s premier defense organization DRDO. The K-15 is a two stage solid propellant fueled missile which can carry a 1 tonne nuclear warhead. The missile can strike a target at 750 kilometers when carrying a 1000 kg payload. The range of the missile can be drastically extended to 2000 km by reducing the payload to around 200kg. The submarine will also be equipped to carry the K-4 missile with a range of 3500 kilometer when carrying a 2.5 tonne warhead. The submarine will also carry 6 ‘533mm torpedoes’ for countering any lurking threats.
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