Saturday, July 25, 2015

The future of India's silent warriors - 2

The futuristic under water force of Indian navy


INS Arihant married to her element; Source - Net

    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.

A rare picture of INS Arihant inside HSL; Source - Net

        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 fuelled 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.

Artistic look of Arihant; Source - Net

      ‘INS Arihant’ is slated to enter the forces just before the International Fleet Review (IFR) to be held in 2016. INS Aridhaman the second vessel of the class is undergoing extensive validation tests and is expected to be soon launched for harbour trials. India has also started the construction of two more SSBN at its shipyard in Vadodra. The follow submarines will be longer and heavier than ‘INS Arihant’, singling the increase in the number of missiles to be carried by these follow-on submarines.

          INS Aridhaman is expected to displace around 7000 tonne when launched and the follow S-4 and S-5 vessels are expected to displace around 8000 tonnes thus confirming the increase in the missiles to be carried by the sub and also making space for more machinery which will make the submarine stealthier. The submarines will also be powered by a 120 MW IWR nuclear reactor. These vessels will surely serve as deterrent against any hostile forces and will also be a crucial arm in the nuclear triad for India.

Sagarika test fired; Source - Net

The P-75 I Project

          Indian navy recently announced the ‘P-75 I’ project, under which the navy is to acquire six diesel-electric attack submarines equipped with AIP units. The government has accorded its principal clearance to the project and has also set apart Rs. 70000 crore making the project, the biggest defence project of India. The vessels under this program will be a follow on to the ‘Scorpene submarines’ and will feature even stealthier features making the submarine virtually invisible. The sub will be used for ‘hunter-killer roles’ and for land attack missions, which mandates the vessels to be equipped with Vertical Launch systems (VLS) which are capable of firing BrahMos and Nirbhay cruise missiles. The submarine will also be equipped with about six torpedo tubes capable of launching both heavy and light weight torpedoes to counter any lurking threats in the water.

Gotland Class Submarine; Source - Net

      The vessels will also be equipped with indigenously produced AIP systems which will enable the submarine to remain in its element for longer periods. The race for the ‘P-75I project’ has been extremely nimble, DCNS has pitched in its Scorpene submarines as follow on vessels for the project and has already confirmed of providing India with the latest version of Scorpene subs. Russia is pitching its Amur-1650 class submarine, an improved version of the Kilo-class sub. HDW has entered the fray with its Type 216 vessel which is being designed around the Type 212/214 vessel. Sweden is offering India it’s A-26 a futuristic submarine which will replace the ‘Got-land subs’. Japan has been invited to offer its Soryu class sub, but Japan till date has not confirmed anything in this regard. India selecting ‘Scorpene’s’ will be a welcome move, considering the time that would saved due to the existing infrastructure and technology readily available with MDL,Mumbai.

       The relationships between India and Russia is undoubtedly the best and an example for all other international relations. The relationship reaches an all time high when it comes to naval platforms. Indian navy is structured mainly around the Russian naval fleet and developed with the help of Russian shipyards. Today Indian navy is self-sufficient and has set steer for achieving 100% indigenousness in the years to come. The trust attained between India and Russia is unmatched and unquestioned, today India operates INS Chakra, an Akula class nuclear powered attack submarine. There is no question of countries leasing a submarine, to top a nuclear powered submarine to another country, but this was broken with India by Russia such is the relations between the countries.

           India is now actively lobbying to acquire another nuclear powered attack submarine from Russia. India has thrown its weight behind the overhaul and modernization of the uncompleted Iribis, an Akula class sub whose construction was halted midway owing to the cost crunch as the Soviet Union was dissolved. 60% of Iribis construction has been completed and can be transferred to India in two or three years and the same has been confirmed by ‘Vladimir Putin’. India is also lobbying for the lease of Kashalot which has been removed from active service and is being modernized in Amur shipyard.

            Interesting reports of India going for an all together new class of nuclear powered attack submarine have emerged recently in the media. The process for inducting newer submarines will be cumbersome and may take longer time then required. The only submarine to be under current production at Russian shipyards is the Yasen-class attack submarine. The Indian government has also cleared an ambitious plan of inducting six nuclear powered attack submarines which will be designed, fabricated and manufactured indigenously. The induction of Yasen at this phase is a major boost to the operational boost and also to the induction program if conceived as a ToT program under the ‘Make in India’ campaign.

INS Chakra; Source - Reuters

     The Yasen class are multi-mission oriented nuclear powered submarines capable of performing hunter-killer roles and at the same time engage and neutralize land and shipping targets. Displacing about 13000 tonne these submarines are ultra quite when submerged when submerged in its element. Russian navy currently operates a single Yasen class submarine serving under the northern fleet. The lead ship of the class is roumered to have setback Russia’s funds by a whooping US $ 1.6 billion. Being the lead vessel the cost would include the R&D and infrastructural setup cost, but as the follow on vessels are sailed out the cost of the project is guaranteed to decrease drastically.

      The hull is made of low magnetic steel and features spherical bow sonar which is a first for the Soviet subs. The 120 metre long submarine is powered by a single PWR reactor capable of churning out 200 MW or 43000 shp of power which helps the ship attain a max speed of 57 kmph. The submarine is capable of going ultra-quite by engaging its acoustics reduction system and can operate at depths up to 1800 feet. The sub is equipped with Irtysh –Amfora suite and comes equipped with the MGK-500 Shark Gill low frequency active or passive SONAR system and also has the Skat 3 towed array system. The submarine has the highly accurate snoop pair surface search radar and Myedvyeditsa radar systems. The ECM and ESM capabilities of the sub are concentrated around the Rim Hat systems.

      The submarine comes packed to its brim with extremely lethal firepower. The sub is equipped with 8 VLS launch tubes capable of housing 24 cruise missiles, the Yasen currently houses Oniks and Kalbir SLCM but these systems will be removed if exported to India in accordance to the MCRT. The sub if operated by the Indian navy can be expected to sport the Nirbhay, BrahMos and Russian origin Klub missile system. The sub is fitted out with 8 torpedo launch tubes which are capable of firing multiple heavy weight and light weight torpedoes. The submarine can also be used to lay mines for protecting high value assets and ports.

Yasen Class Submarine; Source - Imur

       With the completion of these projects, Indian navy will be on its way to transform from a regional navy to a blue water force. With rapid induction of these platforms, India is surely to check the wild adventures of its neighbors and in the decades to come the navy will be operating more than 35 submarines. Development is a never ending process and the Indian navy has set the course and tenure to be the most formidable naval force in the eastern hemisphere falling just behind its close ally USN.

Article - Karthik Kakoor

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