Over the next two years,a series of tests,including the crucial activation of the nuclear reactor and firing of missiles,will be carried out on the INS Arihant to make it fully functional and ready for induction into the Indian Navy.
It took the Ship Building Centre (SBC) almost 11 years to construct the countrys 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 submarine has been moved a short distance away from the dry dock to a covered test area called Site Bravo. While most systems,including the power plant,missile launchers and torpedo tubes,have already been fitted on board,a few others will now be put on the submarine. This helps save time as the dry dock will now be available for the construction of the second and third nuclear submarines of the same class. 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.
We have put a lot of systems online. Now,all the other systems will also be put online, said Vice Admiral D S P Verma (retd),project director of the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV),the codename for the nuclear submarine project.
Over the next few months,engineers working on the submarine will test all its systems,including the engine,communications and sensors on secondary power or power from a land-based source.
After all the systems have been validated,the most crucial part of the induction process will commence the firing of the nuclear reactor. The miniaturised reactor,which will generate 80 MW of power,has been developed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) with the help of a Russian design team.
The actual starting of the reactor to power the submarine will be something that would keep a lot of fingers crossed at the SBC. As soon as the reactor is fired up,all systems will be tested on primary power,or actual in-borne power of the submarine.
We have put in the reactor,that is like the heart,and water and oil,that is like the blood of the submarine. Now,we have to get the fluids running and the heart ticking, said Vice Admiral Verma.
Once the reactor is stable,the submarine will be taken out in the Vizag harbour for a round of trials. The first of these will involve gentle cruises around the harbour for a few days to validate the controls and stability of the platform.
Subsequently,the Arihant will be moved out to sea for a series of high-speed runs,submerged tests and underwater trials. Incidentally,the crew of the submarine will not be changed over the next two years as it is made ready for induction.
The final phase of the two-year testing process would be the actual firing of the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) from the platform. While there is no official word on it,the Arihant is expected to carry 12 K 15 short range nuclear tipped ballistic missiles.
Sources said that the firing of the missiles,while the vessel is submerged,would be the final stage of the testing process. The K 15 missiles,with a range of over 700 km,would be the lethal punch.
A successful firing would make the submarine ready for induction into the Navy. Once inducted,it will take a few years experts say close to five years before the Navy is fully adept at handling the vessel and comfortable in deploying it beyond Indian waters.
Meanwhile,sources said they have also got the nod for the construction of a second class of nuclear attack submarine that will basically be predator vessels designed to target other nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.