Indian Navy Soon To Be The Most Formidable Submarine Force On The Planet! Here’s What You Need To Know

The most important thing about having nuclear weapons is a second strike capability. In a nuclear conflict, one who strikes first may win the war, but one who strikes second makes sure there is no one left to celebrate the win. That’s nuclear deterrence in a nutshell. While it sounds easy in theory, building a nuclear doctrine with a working second strike capability is anything but. India, for example, has declared a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Which means, that though India will not initiate a nuclear conflict, if attacked it will retaliate with such ferocity, that it will wipe the enemy off the face of the map. How does India intend to do this? Like any other superpower, India wants to use submarines.

Submarines for projection of power

If you think about it, submarines are the perfect weapons. Lurking in the depths of the oceans, they move around without being detected and surface to launch the attack on the unsuspecting enemy. Erstwhile superpowers USA and Russia continue to use their SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines) to great effect, projecting their might even today. These SSBNs ensure that even though the land-based missiles and airplanes may have been taken out, the enemy is guaranteed a sending off that it will never forget. And if India wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, it will have to start acting like a superpower, by being able to extend the country’s power across the globe. These submarines are therefore just what India needs.

Current state of submarine force

The current state of the Navy’s underwater fleet is, for lack of a better word, worrisome. India currently has 9 Sindhughosh class (Soviet Kilo class), 2 Scorpene Submarine and 4 Shishumar-class (German HDW Type 209) diesel electric subs and a  nuclear powered INS Chakra (Akula II class) and INS Arihant submarine. For a country with a coastline that measures more than 7,500 km, a fleet of 15 submarines is just not enough. And 15 isn’t the actual number of subs available for duty, because some of them are in ports for refits and maintenance. In comparison, China has a total of 67 submarines in its Navy.

Nuclear Submarine Program

India started building its first nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, under the highly secretive ATV program. In fact the project was such a secret, that it wasn’t until July 2009, when it was actually launched, that it was even officially acknowledged to exist. Work though had started back in the 80s, with Soviet help, to build a nuclear powered hunter-killer sub. India also leased a Charlie-I sub named the INS Chakra between 1987 and 1991 to gain experience in operating nuclear subs. The ATV though moved on from being an attack sub to a ballistic missile carrier as India conducted the second set of nuclear tests in Pokhran. The biggest challenge faced was in miniaturising the Pressurised Light Water Reactor which could fit in the tight confines of the sub’s hull. Based on a Russian design, a land-based version was built by BARC before the actual reactor, of a reported 83 MW capacity, was placed in the sub.

The INS Arihant, after launch in 2009, went through an extensive set of tests including harbour acceptance trials with the on-board reactor going critical in 2013. But it was only in December 2014 that it left the harbour for its sea trials. The Navy Chief, Admiral R K Dhowan, had recently stated that the sea trials of the sub are going “very well”, but refused to give a deadline for their completion.

Arihant class SSBN is the first SSBN class which is active under a country which is out of 5 permanent members of the UN Security council. India has become only the 6th country in the world to posses a SSBN which can launch ballistic missiles from its silos. Arihant class submarines are powered by a pressurised nuclear water reactor of 83 MegaWatt category.According to reports,First vessel of this class INS Arihant which is said to be commissioned into the Navy in March this year. has 4 missile hatches, which can carry either 8 K-15 SLBM with a range of 750-1,500 km or 4 K-4 SLBM with a range of 3,500 km. It is equipped with torpedoes too. The next vessels of this class will be much larger in size and will have more missile hatches than INS Arihant. 2nd vessel INS Aridhaman is said to be launched for sea trial already with commissioning is expected in 2017-end, the next planned 4 vessels will be inducted within 2024.

So India adds 8 more Submarines in the next 4–5 years till 2020–21, taking the total submarine force to 23.

Future Nuclear Boats


A follow-on class of 6 SSBNs codenamed S5, almost twice as big as the Arihant-class, was also approved for development. These will be able to carry up to 12 K5 intercontinental ballistic missiles with MIRV warheads.

India Navy already has started working on the successor of Aridhaman Ballistic Missile Class Submarine at least a decade ago and new larger Ballistic Missile Class which will be designated as S5 and will be as big as Ohio class nuclear-powered submarines currently used by the United States Navy. It is unclear how many S5 sister class ships will be developed at this point in time but the construction of the new class of SSBN is yet to commence and it is likely will go on the floor for nearly a decade from now.

Indian Navy is concentrating on the development of current ssbn of arihant class that will give Indian Navy at least 4 submarines & after its completion around 2022-23 and then indian navy will start developing S5 nuclear Submarine.If the program sticks to its schedules and doesn’t face any delays then tentatively the first lead submarine will be ready for launch by end of next decade.


Indigenous SSN class (6 planned) : This SSN class will be first indigenous SSN class by India just like Arihant class SSBN’s. This SSN will be similar in size and capacity of Arihant class but it will have a more powerful nuclear pressurised reactor than Arihant, because SSN needs speed and maneuverability which requires more power and for that a more powerful reactor. Bhaba Atomic Research Centre which built Arihant’s reactor, has already started to built the new one for this SSN class. These SSN’s will have anti submarine torpedoes and anti ship and land attack cruise missiles like BrahMos and Nirbhay as their main weapon.

The SSN are designed to track down and defeat both, the SSBN and the enemy aggression. These submarines are used in the attack of particular targets on land by the launch of the fast missiles by use of the torpedo tubes.

The Submersible Ship Nuclear carries the cruise missile with explosives which are used to attack the assailants within the shores. The other purpose of the submarine ship is to conduct surveillance, perform and complete intelligence missions, so they can offer aid in highly classified operations. The size of this ship is moderately big. The SSN is used to make attacks to assailants in the nearby distance. It is considered war prone and looks for enemy ships to destroy them


Scorpeane class SSK’s (1 commissioned, 2 under sea trial,3 building, 3 planned) : This is the first diesel electric submarine India has purchased after 3 decades. Scorpeane class submarines are considered to be one of the best in the world under non nuclear submarines category. This is equipped with heavy weight indigenous Varunastra torpedoes and Exocet anti ship missiles as its main weapon. These submarines can stay under water for long time just like nuclear submarines because these are equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) which enables a diesel electric submarine to stay under water for longer time.

Project-75I class SSK’s (6 planned) : Govt of India has sanctioned the funds for the development of Project-75I class diesel electric submarines which will be equipped with AIP modules for long duration of under water patrol and will be equipped with Varunastra torpedoes, BrahMos anti ship cruise missile and Nirbhay land attack long range cruise missile as its main weaponry. 6 vessels will be constructed in selected Indian shipyards through bidding process which includes joint venture with a foreign firm and their submarine design.

Project 76 (P-76), which is supposed to be an IN program to acquire at least 12 SSKs of indigenous design by leveraging the capabilities built up via the P-75 & P-75I license build programs.

Project P-75I will have higher indigenized content and will have locally developed submarine Sonar suite, periscope and other sub-systems which India can source from Arihant class project. Project P-75I  not only will reduce timeline required to manufacture this six submarines for Indian navy but it also will help Public and Private sector companies to be better prepared to gain experience and expertise before India can initiate Project-76 which is to be executed after Project 75I.

Indian Navy will be in charge of Project-76, which will be the development of 6 to 12 next-generation conventional submarines which will be executed by Public and Private sector shipyard in India post-2030. The Indian Naval Bureau is presently undertaken design and development work for Six Nuclear Attack Class Submarines, along with bigger ballistic missile submarine which will be the successor to the current Arihant class Nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

The 6 Project 75I. 12 Project 76 and 6 Nuclear Attack Submarines will replace the 13 Shishumar and Sindhughosh Class Submarines in the Navy. So, say around 2037, 20 years down the line, India will build 24 submarines — 18 conventional submarines and six nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) — as an effective deterrent against China and Pakistan.

Of the 14 conventional submarines India currently possesses, including the Scorpene, only half are operational at any given point of time. India also has two nuclear-powered submarines — INS Arihant (SSBN, a ballistic missile submarine) and INS Chakra (SSN, a nuclear-powered one) leased from Russia.

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