India’s First Ballistic Missile Sub to Begin Sea Trials
Image Credit: Government of India

India’s First Ballistic Missile Sub to Begin Sea Trials


India’s first indigenously-built, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, is set to begin sea trials shortly India’s The Tribune reported on Sunday, citing unnamed Indian officials.

“The nuclear reactor that will power the submarine can be formally declared ‘critical’ anytime now, while the nuclear-tipped missiles to be launched from underwater are in place,” an unnamed source was quoted as saying.

The sea trials are set to begin in mid-August with the wait being attributed to the rough waters caused by India’s yearly monsoon, which begins to weaken in mid-August according to the source. Once it sets sail the submarine will undergo extensive testing underwater including test launching submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Once the INS Arihant is ready to conduct deterrent patrols, perhaps as early as the end of this year, India will have at least a nascent nuclear triad—the ability to launch nuclear weapons by land, air or sea.

India is only the sixth country to acquire a sea-based nuclear leg, with the others being the U.S., the UK, France, Russia and China, albeit—as noted last week—Beijing’s ballistic missile submarines are not believed to have conducted deterrent patrols.

India’s quest to build a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN, in U.S. Navy parlance), reportedly began in 1970 under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Code-named the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) program, its existence was kept under wraps for more than three decades ago before the former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, PK Iyengar, revealed it at a public forum back in 2007.

“Indian scientists and technologists are capable of making light water reactors and we are already constructing an LWR at Kalpakkam in south India for the submarine,” Iyengar was quoted by The Guardian at the time as saying.

Russia is thought to have helped design the vessel, although India claims it built the LWR entirely by itself.

The INS Arihant (slayer of enemies) was first launched in 2009 without any corresponding submarine-launched ballistic missiles or the LWR. The vessel weighs 6,000 tons, has a length of 367 feet (110 meters) and reportedly travels at twenty four knots underwater. According to the Tribune, it cost Rs 15,000 crore (appx. US$2.5 billion) to build.

It is powered by an 80-mw pressurized water reactor that uses uranium as fuel and light water as a coolant and moderator. This will allow it to operate quietly and stay submerged for about 2 months at a time.

The SSBN can reportedly carry up to 12 K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), that have a range of around 700 km, or 4 K-4 SLBMs, which have a range of 3,500 km and are comparable in many ways to India’s Agni-III land-based missile. The K-4 Missiles are still under development, however. It is also believed to be developing a K-5 SLBM with a range of nearly 1,864 mi.

In 2008, Rear Admiral (retired) Raja Menon was quoted by India Today as saying, “One submarine carries at least 12 [K-15] missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles, which could mean as many as 96 warheads.”

India first announced that it had tested a K-15 SLBM from a submerged pontoon at a depth of 50 meters in January of this year (see video below). At the time it said that it had secretly conducted over a dozen earlier tests of the K-15, and that the development phase was now complete.

Altogether, India plans to field 3 SSBNs with the goal of keeping two on patrol at all times, a highly ambitious plan given needed repairs.

As noted last week, U.S. intelligence reportedly believes that China will deploy its own new SLBM, giving it an effective sea-based deterrent for the first time. Both China and India maintain no-first-use nuclear policies. SSBN's are seen as the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. 

August 1, 2013 at 21:49

I am extremely Proud of India and to be its citizen. No matter what, it is great achievement, I really hope India succeeds in every aspect. Excellent Job to all scientists, Engineers and everyone involved in this project because of you all we are proud to have such a great accomplishment.

August 1, 2013 at 18:37

The missile test took place not from a nuclear submarine but from an underwater testbed"Pontoon" made for K15 Sagarika.hence,the fear is unfounded..

July 31, 2013 at 17:12

Pakistan has Nuclear Sub?

OMG, u just revealled a secret which even General Kayani is not aware of..

July 31, 2013 at 01:08

Correction needed: India is not the 6th but infact the 7th nation to get this facility as Pakistan already has this. Plus our submarine can stay in water for 3 months. India's submarine can only stay in water for 2 months. Long live Pakistan n its forces- Ameen Sum Ameen

July 30, 2013 at 23:34


We really dont have to build from stratch specially when there are country (russia) ready to share knowledge. There was a collaboration with Russia, specailly in miniatursing the reactor. By the way it doesn't mean India do not produce nuclear reactor, nor it means it  cannot build by itself.

First point is, it is good to collaborate if it an option. Chinese does the same as well. Also what it does is it steal the design (Russian openly blame them). Indian scientists have to either collaborate or build by itself.

July 30, 2013 at 20:10

A nation surrounded by nuclear armed opponents on both sides with which it has already fought major conflicts would be suicidal to ignore national defense.

Further, Prosperity means nothing without freedom and security for all and India spends less than 3% of its GDP on the military – the global average, despite its high threat profile and its dangerous geopolitical region. Nobody is going to come to India's rescue when the bombs start falling, that's why its India's responsibility to make adequate preparation for war and conflict while it has peace so that those who want to challenge it militarily will have to pay a very high price for aggression, making war unlikely.

July 30, 2013 at 20:02

The people who built the submarine say it is indigenious in all the ways that matter, though they do acknowledge Russian assistance in some design aspects. The missiles, the reactor, the warheads are all Indian made and Indian designed.

The Arihant design bears no resemblence with what NATO calls the "Akula class" submarine, for one the Akula class is a SSN, while the Arihant is a SSBN and secondly, the dimensions, the sailplane and the technology are vastly different. Some informed sources point to it resembling the Charlie 3 class in appearence.

July 30, 2013 at 18:48

India can still hit China without Nuclear submarine…

July 30, 2013 at 15:57

Who says INS- Arihant is indigenously built? It is Russian backed nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine having close resemblance with Russian Akola I class submarines. Even Indian PM in his speech has shown gratitude to Russia for assistance. India is now turning towards the naval hostilities and aggressions which has further strategic implications on the whole region. 

July 30, 2013 at 15:12

"Altogether, India plans to field 3 SSBNs…" 

That's not enough.

July 30, 2013 at 15:04

A good job by the India Naval forces but why our country is really obsessed to fight a war. Our forces dreamed all time  to go for a war. Our economy greatly suffered by these wishes of war so as the people. War fighting is really a costly business in which benfits are less and cost is high. India can reach on the top if it concentartes on building economy not stickpiles of weapons.

gerald the punisher
July 30, 2013 at 11:57

Glad to see that New Delhi can finally hit Beijing. But the larger question is when will the Indians wake up & realize that they have more in common with the west than with their Ancient enemies the Chinese. The nonaligned movement is a joke & is no longer relevant;. Most wars are with your neighbors. & the Chinese aren’t annexing Guam or Puerto Rico !Shortly all of Asia will be picking sides, so take America’s help, while you still can India.

July 30, 2013 at 10:32

"…while the nuclear-tipped missiles to be launched from underwater are in place,”

Did the author check his facts. You have a submarine undergoing trials with nuclear-tipped missiles in place???

That's like a P-plater driver told to drive a fuel truck or one that is carrying hazardous waste.  A combination that is a potential disaster in the making.

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