Top secret 11 yrs in making, submarine faces crucial tests ahead

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 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 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.

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