Two-decade project should be ready for sea trial in 2009
NEW DELHI: The defence establishment is making stunning progress in developing its underwater ability to launch nuclear missiles, the most assured means of launching weapons without enemy detection.
The development of a nuclear submarine and nuclear-capable missile would result in India joining an exclusive club of five countries. The most potent ability in the nuclear triad — the other two being land and air based nuclear capability — the underwater capability is much closer to realisation than known in public, informed several sources across the military establishment.
Three simultaneous developments are the reasons why optimism is brimming in military circles. First, the indigenous project called Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) is fast moving towards sea trial. Secondly, the submarine launched ballistic missile project named Sagarika is getting ready for a full-system test in a couple of months. And thirdly, a nuclear submarine leased from Russia is expected to join the Indian Navy by the middle of next year.
Sources said to stitch up last minute glitches in the ATV project, a team headed by the chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation, and comprising among others the head of the ATV project, are in Russia to firm up assistance. The ATV is believed to be close to the design of a Russian nuclear submarine, which India had leased in the late 80s for three years.
According to a source privy to the progress of the project, by 2009 the submarine would be ready for sea trials. Several sources in the military establishment have told DNA that India’s almost two-decade-old project is “making progress” quicker than ever. The land-based trials of its nuclear reactor, which would fuel the submarine, in Kalpakkam was successful. A hull for the submarine developed by Larson and Turbo is in Vishakapatnam, where the final integration would take place.
Meanwhile, a team of military scientists is getting ready for a test of Sagarika, now codenamed K15, a submarine launched ballistic missile which can be fired from ATV. The missile has a range of 300 kilometers and scientists are hopeful of extending it to 500 kilometers. The test would bring India closer to its military dream of completing the nuclear triad. The full-system test has to be carried out by January end, before the Bay of Bengal turns turbulent.
What will further add to the efforts would be the arrival of a Russian nuclear submarine on lease for India Navy. The Akula-II class nuclear submarine is expected to be handed to the Indian Navy in June next year.
The submarine would be on lease for a decade, and would be the second time that Indian Navy would get to actually use a submarine run on nuclear power. The first time was in 1988, when India leased for three years a Charlie-I class submarine named INS Chakra.