RIDER AND CREDITS. This post on www.indiadefenceforum.com is an abridged and modified version of the final longer research which is in GEO-POLITICS Issue of February 2016 by author. Copies were in demand at IFR as there is world wide interest in Arihant and was listed in the Review but was not cleared at the last minute. (See photo). Also the Russia’s Deep Submersible Rescue Vessel (DSRV) Epron that took part in IFR will possibly standby for Arihant’s final deep dives and missile firings to enable commissioning. Read on.
The Arihant (S2) was constructed at Vishakhapatnam under naval supervision, with Russian consultancy and selected Indian and imported equipment that is tested at DRDO/Navy’s classified Defence Marine Development Establishment (DMDE) at Hyderabad. There is a risk sharing Public Private Partnership (PPP) between DRDO and Larsen &Toubro Ltd which supplied specialized welded modules from its Heavy Engineering plant at Hazira under Mr Patil and many Ex Navy helped to construct Arihant in a leased shed at Ship Building Centre (SBC) constructed by Defence Research and Defence Organisation (DRDO) under the classified Project Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), now renamed Akashanka (Hope). A most well planned and funded by PMO project to DRDO.
Two more larger SSBNs Aridhaman S3 and S4 are under construction at (SBC) at Vishakapatnam earlier part of Naval dockyard. These will have K-4 longer range underwater missiles which have been tested by DRDO like the Kalam-15/Bhasin-05 missiles for Arihant. A new base is coming up under Project Varsha South 70 km from Vishkapatnam.
Submariners proudly , ‘Run Deep Run Silent’ and proved their worth in wars as stealth weapons and caused more damage and sunk more tonnage than warships or aircraft. Submarine warfare made its debut in the First World War when Germans U Boats (Unterseeboots) surprised and wrecked havoc on the Royal Naval Fleet and allied merchant shipping in the first two years of that long war between 2014-15. Only when Britain and USA hit back with submarines and aircraft carriers, did the tide turn.
In the second world war Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote, “The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”
This article is therefore a salute to India’s submarine arm, born in 1967 with the induction of Foxtrot class INS Kalvari. The arm successfully operated seventeen submarines accident free in the early 1990s including the nuclear submarine INS Chakra1(K-43) on lease from the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991, which was received Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi off Vishkapatnam who lunched with the officers and the moustache Coxswain when dived (photo). India also commissioned two Shishumar class HDW-1500 submarines, Shalki in 1992 and Shankul in 1994 constructed at Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) at Mumbai. But political scandal put an end to the programme. It was Harakiri !
Chakra’s crews were trained at Rechka, and at sea in the Bay of Ulysses in harsh winters and housed at Vtoraya a suburb of Vladivostok. Indian submariners and technical officers ashore cut their teeth in nuclear submarine operations and maintenance. For three years Chakra under Capts R Ganesh, S Anand and R Sharma successfully covered 72,000 nautical miles (133,000km) in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea, and the reactor remained active for 430 days with five 63 km ranged Amethyst missile firings (SS-N-7 NATO Code name Starbright) and forty two torpedo launches. The supervising Russian Captain Terenov wrote, “The Indian Navy’s nuclear base at Vishakapatnam as is as good as any in Russia”, and pays tributes to the professionalism of Indian Navy submariners”.
It was Admiral of the Fleet Sergie Gorshkov who supported the build up of the Indian Navy. Indians were also trained to change the atomic cores with robots. This experience encouraged Indian Navy to ask for another nuclear submarine to assist the Arihant being constructed at SBC.
The 8,500 ton Akula (Shchuka-B) with 190MW of nuclear power was also commissioned as INS Chakra in 2011, at Vladivostok under Capt Ashok Roy now Rear Admiral and is operating from SBC and helping naval engineers and constructors who extended a dry dock at Vishakhapatnam and refitted INS Chakra, to commission Arihant which has an Indian built 85MW miniature nuclear reactor, fitted out by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Mumbai (BARC) with help of Indian firms like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) for steam turbines, MIDHANI and Godrej for special steels, Walchandnagar Industries Ltd and Larsen&Toubro Ltd (L&T) for reactor parts , Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for electronics and air conditioning, battery health monitors, pumps and air blowers from private firms which supply equipment to Nuclear Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for civil nuclear power plants.
Nuclear submarine training is carried out at Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre (IGAR) at Kalpakam where BARC and Navy successfully constructed a semi submarine (S1) with a propeller around a proto type reactor which was tested on 11th November 2003. S1 was made public in a presentation by the BARC scientist Anil Anand on 30th October, 2013 on BARC’s Founder’s Day.
CREDIT TO MRS INDIRA GANDHI DAE BARC DRDO AND NAVY PLANNERS
The credit for germination of the nuclear submarine project must go to Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi, was buoyed after India’s 1974 successful ‘Buddha is Smiling’ labeled a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE). Mrs Gandhi, sounded the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and BARC scientists Drs Raja Ramanna, Director of BARC, Dr P.K. Iyengar responsible for the manufacture of the nuclear device and design team led by Rajagopala Chidambaram and Satinder Kumar Sikka and Pranab Rebatiranjan Dastidar, to think of making a miniature nuclear propulsion reactor, which were being used in submarines and trial surface ships and looked promising even for Indian merchant ships as fuel prices were on the rise.
In 1976 naval engineers under Capt P N Agarwal and later under Capt B Bhushan both trained engineers from HMS Manaden UK were posted to BARC to train and work under the overall guidance of Dr Dastidar, Director Reactor Group and study design options. Physical work on a naval nuclear reactor on a Plutonium Reactor Project (PRP) was later started under Dr Anil Anand a High Pressure Boiling Water reactor expert trained in France and USA. India had mastered plutonium power heavy water reactors.
PRP was a mistake as a plutonium reactor takes time to build power, but at first BARC was planning for only an experimental reactor. Engineer Cdr Subba Rao was also deputed to BARC. He visited operating reactors at Tarapur and Rajasthan and got busy designing a uranium mini reactor like the one fitted on the USS Nautilius from articles and studies from US Universities. After a meeting in Naval Head Quarters PRP was converted into a uranium reactor project which succeeded and was the first step in India’s quest for a nuclear powered submarine.
The classified ATV Project was set up in the mid 1980s by Dr Raja Ramana Chairman Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Dr V S Arunachalam Secretary of the (DRDO), with funding from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and DAE. The SBC was carved out of the sprawling Naval dockyard and ATV was mandated to build a shore based miniature nuclear reactor S1 and a nuclear submarine S2 with a similar reactor initially as a technology demonstrator. Principal Private Secretary to Mrs Gandhi, PN Haksar pursued the research for a design in 1977 with funds advanced to BARC from the Planning Commission.
ATV’s story still largely classified, but it is is one of ups and downs, and late Vice Admral PN Tandon Chief of Material (COM) of the Navy stated in meetings, Navy must aspire for nuclear submarines but the Navy’s budget could not afford it. Tandon assured the ATV project naval personnel and space in Naval Dockyard Vishakhapatnam for SBC, which port has now got congested. The Navy is constructing a new submarine base South of Gangavaram at Rombilli called Project Varsha (Rain).
The classified Advanced Technology Vehicle/Vessel (ATV), project first became public on 26th July, 2009 when Arihant’s black pearl shaped hull was berthed alongside the jetty for fitting out at SBC. Mrs Gursharan Kaur wife of then PM Dr Manmohan Singh christened the Arihant with the chanting of slokas. PM Dr Singh stated, “We thank our Russian friends for their consistent and invaluable cooperation, which symbolises the close strategic partnership that we enjoy with Russia”.
The reactor was first fired up operationally by BARC’s physicist Dr Usha Paul for tests and achieved running harbour criticality in 10th August 2013. The Navy with officers trained by BARC always provided manpower and support and ATV was piloted by successive Navy Director Generals Vice Admirals, Mihir Roy, Bharat Bhushan, Ravi Ganesh, Promod Bhasin who cut the steel, DSP Verma who launched Arihant in 2009 and currently Dinesh Prabhakar who is over seeing the trials off Vishakapatnam, with safety aspects. Systems are tested at DMDE at Hyderabad, headed by a technical Naval Flag Officer .
The next mile stone was achieved on 15th December, 2014 in India’s ambitious quest to induct SSBN ballistic missile firing submarines, when Arihant was flagged off with least fanfare from the SBC by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar under air cover. Arihant majestically sailed out of the Vishakaptanam channel on nuclear power with tugs escorting her out. (See Photo) At sea naval ships and aircraft kept her company acting as safety ships. The boat has since been operating for diving and deep diving trials under the command of Captain Sanjay Mahindru now Rear Admiral and a crew of around ninety with nuclear scientists and engineers embarked for validating results and ensuring safety.
The final step before commissioning Arihant is the mandated firings of around six K-15/B-05 missiles to maximum range which is looked forward to. The procedure is the PM will extract the code to be transmitted by satellite or under water via the naval Very Low Frequency (VLF) station at Tirunevelli to enable the Captain to launch The rest of the history and many milestones are classified in the journey of ATV but the day she reports to the Chief of the Naval Staff and India’s Supreme Commander, “INS Arihant is at sea under nuclear power for India’s Triad”, like USS Nautilius did it will be a red letter day for India and its Make In India quest as Navy has forty seven ships on order in Indian yards, none abroad. Shan No Varuna.