INS Aridhaman, the second Arihant-class nuclear powered submarine that is being built by the Navy at the Ship Building Centre at Visakhapatnam, is reportedly set for a soft launch next week according to well-placed sources in the defence ministry.
The nuclear submarine was initially scheduled for a grand launch at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but sources said a change of decision has happened with authorities at the highest level now deciding to launch the vessel in a quiet manner at the hands of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The vessel is being built under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project at the SBC in the port city. While the launch of the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, the Navy’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, was a high-profile affair with former prime minister Manmohan Singh inaugurating it, the launch of INS Aridhaman is expected to be a closed-door affair, sources said. INS Arihant was launched by then PM Manmohan Singh in September, 2009. Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur had formally launched the vessel according to the tradition of the Indian Navy which dictates that a woman should inaugurate a vessel. Exactly eight years after that, a woman defence minister is now expected to launch INS Aridhaman at the Ship Building Centre in Eastern Naval command (ENC), probably on November 19 or 20, sources said.
Sources said INS Aridhaman would be bigger than Arihant and would be more lethal in all aspects. “It would have double the number of missile hatches than its predecessor. It can carry more missiles and also will have a more powerful reactor,” Navy sources said.
The submarine will have eight launch tubes in its hump and will have the capability to carry long-range missiles of more than 3,000 km. After launch, the vessel would undergo extensive fitting before being readied for harbour trials and sea trials in the next two years. Once it is confirmed ready for operations, it will be commissioned by 2020, Navy sources said. INS Arihant was commissioned in October last year in a hush-hush manner though it was launched in 2009.
The launch of the Aridhaman will bolster the Navy’s nuclear capabilities along with the existing INS Arihant, and will take the country’s military a big step closer to its professed goal of a credible nuclear triad. A sea-based deterrent will provide the military a secure underwater platform to launch nuclear missiles, and will complete the toughest of the three legs of the nuclear triad.
The Navy right now has only about 13 conventional submarines, with only half of them operational at any given time because at least 10 submarines are over 25 years old.