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INS Arihant


The INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered submarine, will not go for its much-awaited sea trial by December—the deadline set by the Navy.The 80 Mwe nuclear reactor on-board the submarine is yet to be functional more than three years after the submarine was launched in water. The reactor is yet to produce the energy required to propel the 6000-tonne submarine.

The non-functioning of the Arihant nuclear reactor has more to do with the completion of a large number of other systems and components inside the submarine vessel rather than any problem with the nuclear reactor.

“At the earliest, Arihant can go for sea-trial only in 2013,” sources in the department of atomic energy told Deccan Herald.

Former Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had stated that the Arihant will be on sea patrol by December 31, 2012.

Asked to comment on whether the Navy still stood by that deadline, a defence ministry official declined to make any comment on Saturday.

The nuclear submarine, capable of remaining underwater for a month without surfacing,  also has a diesel backup for emergency situations in the deep sea.

The hush-hush launch of the 104 mt-long Arihant inside a closely guarded dockyard in Visakhapatnam in 2009 marked the end of a 25-year long journey to developed an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his wife, Gursharan Kaur, Defence Minister A K Antony and then National Security Adviser M K Narayanan were present at the launch.

Even though there is no official admission, sources said Rs 7,000 crores had been spent on Arihant . Only the US, UK, Russia, France and China operate nuclear submarines.

“Everything was made in India up to the last nuts and bolts. Also the industry was not well developed when we started. We faced a lot of problems on materials,” said a nuclear scientist who was closely associated with reactor development.

But when the submarine was launched in water in July 2009, many systems and components were not in place. Over the last two years, the project management team was putting the instruments in place. The circular design of the submarine’s interior panel made the job more complicated for the team.

“More than 150 systems have to work simultaneously for the submarine to operate,” the sources said.

When inducted, the INS Arihant will complete India’s nuclear triad giving New Delhi second strike capability from the land, air and sea in case of a nuclear attack. At the moment, the N-submarine has 125 K-15 short range ballistic missiles with a one-tonne nuclear warhead, which can hit the target at a distance of 700 km. Eventually they will be replaced by 3500 km range submarine launched ballistic missiles, which are currently under development.

Construction has also begun for the second nuclear-submarine and its nuclear reactor as numerous systems and components are being readied. But the final assembly for the reactor as well as the vessel is yet to start.

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