Arihant Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) - Armament
The Arihant Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) was difficult to understand. Just as China built socialism "with Chinese characteristics" [in Deng Xiaopeng's immortal phrase], India has built an atomic submarine "with Indian characteristics". The "normal" program, that is, the programs of the USA, UK, and the Soviet Union, all followed a consistent pattern in which a nuclear powered attack submarine design was modified to carry long range strategic ballistic missiles. Contrary to other countries, the first efforts of France were directed into the building of a ballistic missile submarine. In all cases, however, the submarines were all "operational" rather than test assets [though the status of the Chinese Xia class SSBN was uncertain].
Countries have distinctive national styles of military technology. American hardware is sophisticaed, the product of a system where cost over-runs and schedule delays are normal. The Soviet system tended towards less sophiticated systems that were easier to produce and simplere to operate. The Indian indigenous arms industry is characterized by bizarrely protracted development cycles, measured in decades rather than years, which as often as not fail to ever result in an operational weapon [in American missile defense circles, this is known as "reserach forever"]. The India caste system is divided among the Brahmans [priests], the Kshatriyas [warriors], Vaishyas [merchants], and Shudras [laborers]. At times it seems that indigenous India weapons programs exsist for the amusement of the Brahmans rather than the use of the Kshatriyas, and the ATV is no exception.
One MOD report from 2011 noted "The Government has not been able to put in place a responsive, dynamic and effectivedefence procurement regime. The complete process suffers from indifference, apathy, inefficiency and lassitude. Old bureaucratic mindsets and penchant for status-quoism inhibit forward thinking.... The Indian defence acquisition process is fraught with unacceptable and undue delays at all stages and most of the acquisition schemes result in foreclosure. Procedural propriety and integrity has overtaken the primary aim of affecting positive and timely procurement."
The ATV has four larger missile tubes for the medium-range K-15 nuclear missile, with each tube able to accomodate three smaller tubes for the shorter range BO-5 SLBM. The four medium range missiles do not constitute much in the way of a deterrent force, while the 700 kilometer range BO-5 does not provide much in the way of a patrol area in which the submarine might hide. The Advanced Technology Vessel literally is a technology vessel rather than an operational capability.
The plan for the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) until the late 1980s, was to build an SSN - a fast-moving deep-diving nuclear-powered attack submarine, which would hunt surface ships. Around the time India leased a Charlie-I class nuclear-powered attack submarine from the Soviet Union, which happened in 1988, planning veered towards building a submarine carrying ballistic missiles. The hull design was lengthened and the SSN quietly transformed into an SSBN able to fit as many as 12 SLBMs.
The Indian Navy pitched for a submarine-launched nuclear missile to boost the nation's deterrence capabilities. "With nuclear proliferation posing a greater threat along with Weapons of Mass Destruction, our unilateral policy of no-first-use necessitates that India possesses a credible and survivable nuclear deterrent, including submarine-launched," Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said pn 08 October 2008. India had in February 2008 tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile for the first time that would take another three years to be fully operational.
INS Arihant (destroyer of enemies), is intrinsic to India's doctrine of 'no first use of nuclear weapons'. It is a credible nuclear deterrent and a weapons platform that would have the capability of surviving a first strike from an enemy and launching a debilitating second strike in retaliation. The search for such a platform- a nuclear submarine, had gripped the attention of the country's military planners and defence scientists for nearly three decades.
The nuclear haves increasingly relying on sea-based nuclear deterrence in preference to land and air segments. India has a number of foreign-produced cruise missile systems in its arsenal, to include Exocet, Styx, Starbright, Sea Eagle, and perhaps the Russian Sunburn supersonic missile. It also has some indigenous cruise missile systems under development to include the Sagarika and Lakshya variant.
According to some accounts India planned to have as many as five nuclear submarines capable of carrying missiles with nuclear warheads. Once the vessel is completed, it may be equipped with Danush/Sagarika cruise missiles and an advanced sonar system. However, according to some analysts the most probable missile for the Indian submarine would be the Yahont anti-ship cruise missile designed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
Media reports speak of a plan to build by 2015 a fleet of three nuclear submarines, each carrying 12 nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. One report claims that the ATV will carry either 14 SAGARIKA cruise missiles with a range of 750 km or 4-5 AGNI-3 with a range of 3500 km, along with a few torpedoes.
The SSBN fleet will be housed on the east coast at a new naval base in Rambilli, a few kilometers south of Visakhapatnam, where nearly 3,000 acre of land has been acquired for India's first strategic base, to be manned entirely by military personnel. Unlike the narrow single channel in Visakhapatnam, it will offer the nuclear fleet direct access into the sea. The first phase of the project, costing approximately Rs 1,500 crore, was to be ready by 2011.
By 2012 it seemed that Arihant would be armed with 12 nuclear-tipped submarine launched missile K-15 with a range of 750 km. Plans were then afoot to equip it with four K-4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) with a range of 3,500 km later.
Prasun K Sengupta concluded that the ATV was purely a technology demonstration project which will never become an operational vessel and never be commissioned into service. Even externally, it won't in any way resemble an operational submarine, contrary to speculation in mainstream Indian newsmedia. By this view, a full-scale operational India-built SSBN is at least a decade away. Everything depends on the first unit successfully undergoing sea trials. This alone will take another five years and only if the trials are successful will the production-series SSBN be built.
The hump was empty as of 2014 and it could accommodate either eight VLS cells for BrahMos-type missiles or four 8,500km-range SLBMs.
The country's first indigenously built nuclear submarine headed for sea trials in December 2014, was to join the fleet in late 2016. In the meantime, India was in talks with Russia to lease a second nuclear-propelled submarine. The government turned to industrial group Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which built the hull for the first submarine, to manufacture two more nuclear submarines.
By late 2015 India's own nuclear-powered ballistic missile INS Arihant submarine was due to be commissioned in 2016 at the Navy Shipbuilding Centre in Visakhapatnam. At that time a second boat, INS Aridaman, was already under construction, with at least two more slated to be built.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list