The Indian Navy has developed a new top-secret naval base for its nuclear submarines, code-named Project Varsha, located within a radius of approximately 200 kilometers (124.27 statute miles) from Visakhapatnam. Previous news reports suggested that Gangavaram had been the initial site for the new base.
The new base is designed to support all 8-12 Arihant -class submarines to be built for the Indian Navy, and it will include state-of-the-art nuclear engineering support facilities and extensive crew accommodation. The Indian Navy is seeking foreign technical assistance pertaining to nuclear safety features for the base. While designed principally as a nuclear submarine support facility, the new base can accommodate other naval vessels because of the Indian Navy's expansion. This facility has been compared to the top-secret Hainan nuclear submarine base for the Chinese PLA Navy. This east coast base expansion program by the Indian Navy is in direct response to Chinese naval expansion into the region.
In addition to Project Varsha, in late 2009, the Hindustan Shipyard Limited, located at Visakhapatnam, was transferred from the Ministry of Shipping to the Ministry of Defence in order to support the Arihant -class nuclear submarine construction program.
It took the Ship Building Centre (SBC) almost 11 years to construct the country’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine. Sanctioned using secret funds in the late seventies by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after India conducted its first nuclear test, the design and technology of INS Arihant was locked in 1984 when the formal go-ahead was given. Work on the submarine started in 1998.
The Arihant class submarines are reported to be comparable to the Charlie II class submarines, which India leased from the Soviet Union between 1988 and 1991.Their crew will have the opportunity to train on INS Chakra, which the Indian Navy leased from Russia.
The submarines have four launch tubes in their hump. They can carry up to 12 K-15 Sagarika missiles with 8 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV) each (with a range of 750 km, or 4 of the under-development K-4 missiles (with a range of 3,500 km).
The hull features twin flank-array sonars and Rafael broadband expendable anti-torpedo countermeasures.
The main problem has revolved around the design of miniature PWRs (pressurised water reactors) and their containment plans for the submarine's propulsion system but sources said such technical problems are a thing of the past now, with a little help from countries like Russia and France.
INS Arihant, was introduced to the public on 26 July 2009 at a symbolic launch by Indian prime minister and is now undregoing sea trials.Arihant is expected to be ready for operational deployment by the end of 2012.
Sources said the hulls of the second and third submarines have already been completed and the two warships will be assembled at Vizag over the next few years.
Concurrently, DRDO is also working on the K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which will later be integrated with the submarine.
In all, five ATVs are planned under the programme, whose cost is touching around Rs 14,000 crore now, by around 2025.
The entire aim behind the ATV programme is to have nuclear-powered submarines, armed with nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missiles, to ensure "credible" second-strike capabilities in consonance with India's "no-first use" nuclear doctrine.
Nuclear-powered submarines have higher speeds and can stay submerged much longer than conventional diesel-electric submarines which have to surface or snorkel frequently to get oxygen to recharge batteries -- and thereby provide a much more invulnerable launch pad for nuclear weapons.
Though India already has nuclear-capable aircraft and mobile land-based missiles like the 700-km Agni-I and 2,500-km Agni-II being inducted into the armed forces now, it's hoped the ATV project will finally provide it with the third leg of the nuclear triad.
ARIHANT CLASS SUBMARINE
Type: Ballistic missile submarine
Displacement: 6,000 tons
Length: 112 m (367 ft)
Beam: 15 m (49 ft) (Est.)
Draft: 10 m (33 ft) (Est.)
Propulsion: 83MW PWR using 40% enriched uranium fuel; 1 turbine (47,000hp/70MW); 1 shaft; 17- bladed, high-skew propeller
Speed: 12–15 knots (22–28 km/h) (surfaced); 24 knots (44 km/h) (submerged)
Range: unlimited except by food supplies
Test depth: 300 m (980 ft) (est)
processing systems: USHUS Sonar
Torpedoes: 6 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes - est. 30 charges (torpedoes, missiles or mines)
4 launch tubes (2.4 meter dia each)
12 x K15 SLBM (3 in each launch tube) or
4 x K-4 SLBM (Under development)