All set for a quiet launch of India's first indigenous N-sub

More than two decades after it was conceived, India's first indigenously built nuclear submarine, for long called the Advanced Technology Vehicle project, is set for a quiet launch towards the end of this month. Christened INS Chakra after the Charlie class nuclear submarine taken on lease from the Soviet Union in 1988 for three years, it will be put out in the waters of the Bay of Bengal in Visakhapatnam harbour for sea trials.

Top government sources told The Indian Express that the Navy has been cleared for two more 7,000 tonne-Chakra class submarines with an in-principle clearance for another two of the same class. Completing the nuclear triad as envisaged in the Indian nuclear doctrine, INS Chakra will carry intermediate range submarine-launched missiles that have already been tested twice on the eastern coast.

The submarine was scheduled to be launched on July 26 but the date has now been changed because it also happens to be Kargil Victory Day and the government has no intention of sending any message to the neighbourhood. As of now, the plan is to quietly launch the submarine without fanfare or overt publicity. Even Defence Minister A K Antony is not expected to be present for the launch.

It will be nearly a year before the Chakra class submarine can take to the sea as the nuclear engine and its super structure will undergo rigorous tests in a special enclosure in the Vizag shipyard. For now, it will be put out in the waters, checked, fitted with parts and then put through tests in the waters. The tests and fitments over, it will be formally commissioned towards the end of next year.

Launched in the mid-1980s, the ATV project is now headed by Vice Admiral B Kanan whose wife Nirmala, incidentally, is the younger sister of Indian Ambassador to China and Foreign Secretary-designate Nirupama Rao. The submarine is going to be tested on India's eastern seaboard and earlier plans of moving it to Karwar in Goa have been shelved for the time being. Instead, the first of the two Russian Akula class nuclear submarines that India is taking on lease will be deployed on the western seaboard.

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