Intro- American aggression during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and their eventual withdrawal due to the presence of Soviet SSNs was enough for the Indians to realise the importance of nuclear powered subs. Thus in the 1980s under immense secrecy work on a domestic reactor for naval propulsion was started and after that work on India’s first domestic nuclear powered sub began. They named it as the Arihant class which in Sankrit means “slayer of its enemies”.
India’s close ally, the USSR had suggested that they use nuclear subs as early as the 1980s and a formal offer to lease one was officially made in 1981 which led to the lease of a Charlie I to the Indian navy. Reportedly, Indians loved the idea of nuclear powered submarines carrying long range missiles which was one of the main deterrents the USN faced as they tried to project power across the globe. This actually sheds some light as to why BrahMos, a potent cruise missile was tested from a submerged pontoon thus giving rise to a popular speculation that this sub will have mixed loads of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
Arihant’s development programme is very secretive which is evident from the number of pictures released showing a significant amount of its hull, this number is “5” ( we have all those pics in this article) whereas there are 2-3 others showing a part of it. The info on this sub is pretty sketchy too but there are few aspects which are confirmed. The displacement is close to 6000 tonnes (newest speculation suggests it is 8000 tonnes) making it the smallest SSBN ever built. She features 4 SLBM silos which can carry either 4 K-4 SLBMs (range 3500-4500km) which is essentially a sub launched variant of Agni 3 IRBM or tripack K-15 SR-SLBM (range 700km) per silo. It is said that K-15 is essentially a stop gap designed to fill the gap between commissioning of Arihant and K-4. Both of these missiles have been successfully test fired from Arihant. There is a speculation that it will also carry BrahMos AShM whose sub launched variant has been tested as well, thus making it an SSGN/SSBN combo if deployed.
This SSBN is powered by a 83MW reactor, the designation for which hasnt been released. This reactor powers a single turbine which inturn powers a single screw giving it a submerged speed of 24knots which is enough for an SSBN. She will have a crew of more than 90 and max diving depth of 300m. She is 111m long which makes it the shortest SSBN as well. She sports 6x533mm torpedo tubes with unspecified number of weapons carried internally. There are sources claiming that she uses a smaller version of Akula’s hull, one of which is on a 10 year lease to the Indian navy. The similarities are said to be below the water line and there are CG images which support this claim but like all secretive projects we cant confirm it. She sports an Indian bow mounted sonar array along with wide aperture arrays which are synced with a domestic integrated sonar and targeting system. Presently, some part of this hull is constructed at an L & T facility in Gujarat and final assembly takes place in Visakhapatnam. Indians have maintained the security of both these facilities pretty well as there havent been any leaks in the form of pictures or info from both of them.
INS Arihant was launched on 26 July 2009, the day India celebrates as Vijay Diwas ie the day on which the Kargil conflict ended. The date on which her keel was laid hasnt been released. After being launched, additional work was done on her, her reactor attained criticality in 10 Aug 2013 ie 4 years after being launched. The delays in the programme are supposedly caused due to extensive testing of all her components as she is the first domestically designed sub in India and is nuclear powered which adds complexity. She has probably been commissioned into the Indian navy in Aug 2016 as per some rumours. Usually such events get a lot of media attention but looking at the secrecy involved in this project, this is acceptable. India plans to build atleast 4 subs of this class off which the 2nd sub has been named as Aridhaman.
India’s ex PM addressing a crowd during the launch ceremony, but we can see a part of Arihant’s hull behind him.India’s former first lady breaking a coconut on the hull of Arihant during the launch ceremony.
Aridhaman is an interesting case on its own. Initially, it was thought that all of the 4 Arihant class boomers would be of the same size which is usually the case within a class of submarines or ships. New speculations suggest otherwise, the vessel might have twice the number of SLBM silos i.e. 8. It will obviously be larger than its predecessor however no details of the powerplant are known. The remaining 2 would probably follow Aridhaman or show increments in size bringing them closer to the rumored S5. Eight SLBM silos bring it closer to the 12 carried on the Chinese Type 094 which carries the least SLBMs as of now. Again rumors suggest that Aridhaman has either been launched or is almost ready for it. Some Google Maps images have emerged but they are not confirmed and hence arn’t included in this update.
A graphic, courtesy Livefist showing the larger size of Aridhaman
This programme has been criticised by some simply because Arihant is no match for SSBNs operated by other countries. They fail to understand that the first step in any domain is difficult and developing a domestic sub that to nuclear powered is even more difficult, for eg Chinese did it with the help of Russians, Brazilians are using existing SSK design for developing a new SSN with Chinese help, the British needed American help as well. Hence this programme basically provides Indians with vital experience in the field of sub designing. With this experience, they are already designing a new 170MW reactor for future subs, a new 12000 tonne SSBN with 12-16 SLBM silos sporting newer and longer ranged SLBMs. This future boat has been designated as the S5. This potent SSBN can only be built with the experience gained from this smaller yet potent SSBN.
Arihant heading for sea trials
INS Arihant being the first SSBN to be built outside the 5 permanent members of the UN, gives India a small but potent sub which is still a considerable deterrent. This SSBN, along with its successor and the under development SSN will allow India to be more assertive and aggressive while protecting its interests. The SSN will allow them to patrol and control the two very important choke points ie Strait of Malacca and the connection between the Red sea and the Arabian sea, these two choke points are very essential for the world trade and a naval blockade could be disastrous for some Asian nations.
Note-Unlike many other articles which show pics of other submarines and claim they are Arihant, all the pictures posted with this article are confirmed pics of INS Arihant.