Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced the country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant successfully completed its “first deterrence patrol”, which signifies the underwater predator has undertaken its maiden long-range mission with “live” nuclear-tipped missiles.
“In an era such as this, a credible nuclear deterrence is the need of the hour. The success of INS Arihant gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail,” the PM tweeted, in a fairly unambiguous message to Pakistan.
In an era such as this, a credible nuclear deterrence is the need of the hour. The success of INS Arihant gives a… https://t.co/R5LNWN00Qe
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1541406587000
The over a month-long patrol by INS Arihant (which means annihilator of enemies), armed with the 750-km range K-15 missiles, incidentally, comes at a time when a Chinese submarine is once again prowling around in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
China has deployed at least eight submarines, alternating between nuclear and conventional diesel-electric boats, in the IOR under the guise of anti-piracy patrols since December 2013.
While INS Arihant’s missiles are dwarfed by the well over 5,000-km range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) present with the US, Russia and China, PM Modi had Pakistan in mind when he said the nuclear submarine is a counter to nuclear blackmail.
India for long has had the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons.
But INS Arihant gives it much more nuclear teeth and credibility. The triad’s underwater leg in the shape of nuclear-powered submarines armed with ballistic missiles, called SSBNs in naval parlance, is considered to be the most secure, survivable and potent platform for retaliatory strikes.
This is especially required for a country like India with a declared “no first-use” nuclear policy. Unlike land-based missiles and fighter-bombers that can conceivably be destroyed in pre-emptive enemy strikes, SSBNs can remain undetected in deep seas for months at end.
The endurance of SSBNs is only limited by the physical and mental endurance of their crews. Conversely, It is far easier to detect conventional submarines because they have to surface or “snorkel” every few days to get oxygen to re-charge their diesel-electric batteries.
“Today is historic because it marks the completion of the successful establishment of the nuclear triad. India’s nuclear triad will be an important pillar of global peace and stability,” said Modi.
“True to its name, INS Arihant will protect the 130 crore Indians from external threats and contribute to the atmosphere of peace in the region,” he added. The PM went on to congratulate the crew and “all involved in the achievement which puts India among a handful of countries having the capability to design, construct and operate SSBNs”.
India, of course, is building far bigger nuclear submarines with longer-range missiles than a “baby boomer” like INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor at its core, under the secretive Rs 90,000 crore ATV (advanced technology vessel) programme, as reported earlier by TOI.
INS Arighat, the second SSBN under-construction at the ship-building centre at Vizag, was “launched” in November last year and is slated to become operational by 2020.
It will be followed by the launch of two 7,000-tonne submarines code-named S-4 and S-4*, which will be armed with six missiles each instead of the four each in INS Arihant and INS Arighat, by around 2020-2022. The design of 13,500-tonne S-5 submarines is also underway.
Simultaneously, India has begun testing K-4 missiles with a strike range of 3,500-km, which will be followed by K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000-km range class. The “K” series of SLBMs, incidentally, are named after former President and missile scientist A P J Abdul Kalam.
The criticality of SLBMS for deterrence can be gauged from the fact that even the US and Russia are ensuring that almost two-thirds of the strategic warheads they eventually retain under strategic arms reduction agreements are such missiles on SSBNs.
India does currently operate a nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, acquired on a 10-year lease from Russia, while final negotiations are underwayto acquire another such vessel for over $2 billion soon. But these submarines, armed with conventional cruise missiles, do not have nuclear missiles because of international treaties.
Ahead of Diwali, PM Modi expressed the hope that “just as light dispels darkness and all fear, INS Arihant will be harbinger of fearlessness for the country”.
“As a responsible nation, India has put in place a robust nuclear command and control structure, effective safety assurance architecture and strict political control, under its Nuclear Command Authority,” said a PMO statement.
“India remains committed to the doctrine of credible minimum deterrence and no first-use, as enshrined in the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security in its meeting chaired by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee on January 4, 2003,” it added.