a workshop at Hazira, desi underwater missile launcher gets ready
of indigenously developed underwater test missile launcher SLBM
Sagarika is slated for September 2001
yet full steam ahead
submarine still seems to be facing problems and the Russians
seem to have stepped in to bail India out, though at a heavy
Estimated to have cost the national exchequer a sum in excess
of Rs 2,500 crore till date, the nuclear submarine project which
started some time in 1971 has had lots of problems essentially
related to the design of the submarine hull and the reactor
it is supposed to house.
The problem was in integrating the pressurised water reactor
(PWR) to fit into the space available within the submarine hull.
Sources say these problems have now been overcome.
Independent observers of the project, however, still doubt whether
the miniaturisation of the pressurised water reactor (PWR) was
successively achieved. The BARC had shelved three designs because
of the scientific objections of a former Naval Commander and
nuclear scientist B K Subbarao who was part of the Naval team
set up to look into the design feasibility. He was later incarcerated
as a spy till the courts exonerated him. A fourth design also
did not meet the specifications of the Navy.
Earlier, India had obtained on lease the INS Chakra, a 670A
Skat class (in Nato parlance Charlie-I) submarine, with the
intention of reverse engineering its PWR. The Russians however
did not allow the Indians anywhere near it though they did train
Navy crews to operate a nuclear submarine.
The central question then is, where will the submarine’s PWR
come from? It is here the Russian connection looms large and
the recent deals with Russia, observers say, are pointers in
Apart from the $ 3 billion arms deal, the two Kudankulam reactors
are estimated to cost $ 2.9 billion, to be paid in dollars.
There is documentation to show that India is reportedly amenable
to the Russian demand that the former purchase a ‘‘series of
power reactors’’ for which an agreement between the two countries
With the Russians now on record saying that they are looking
to build at least 6 VVER-1000s at Kudankulam, India will need
at least $ 18 billion (assuming no cost escalations) to pay
the Russians over the next 20 years. A stiff price to pay for
the LWR design for a nuclear submarine, according to observers.
This inference, say informed sources, is bolstered by the fact
that the submarine being built belongs to the Russian 949A class,
known in NATO parlance as Oscar-II, the kind which the ill-fated
Russian Kursk belonged to. Earlier it was conjectured that the
submarine being planned belonged to the Severodvinsk class.
Oscar-IIs are nuclear-powered guided missile submarines (SSGNs)
exactly what India needs for a credible nuclear deterrence.
Initially, observers were of the opinion that India’s own nuclear
submarine may not fructify even by 2007, but now with the categorical
assertion that Sagarika is slated for September 2001 underwater
trials, the culmination of the project within the specified
time frame may just about be possible. If this happens, India
will take a giant step forward to realise the dream of a credible
second strike nuclear capability.
May 27: On the floors of the workshop of a well-known public
limited company at Hazira, Project 78 (P78) is getting ready. The
engineering works are complete and minor electrical wiring remain
to be completed, a task which, according to sources, is scheduled
to be finished by the end of the month and formally handed over
to the Navy for tests.
P78 is not just another engineering project. It is India’s underwater
test missile launcher almost entirely indigenously designed and
fabricated. It simulates the necessary conditions to launch a cruise
or a ballistic missile from a nuclear-powered submarine. In the
present instance, P78 is the first crucial step towards strategic
weaponisation, since it is being geared to launch a missile tipped
with a nuclear warhead.
for which the launcher is being readied is the mysterious Sagarika,
first thought to be a cruise missile but now, again according to
sources, virtually confirmed to be a ballistic missile. A cruise
missile is a low-trajectory missile guided to its destination by
an on-board computer. The ballistic missile has a high trajectory
and transcends the atmosphere to re-enter from above the targeted
that Sagarika will come in both versions — cruise and ballistic.
It is, however, confirmed to be an advanced clone of the naval version
of the Prithvi series. Prithvi-I is land-based, II is air-launched
and III, sea launched. The difference is that Sagarika is designed
exclusively for being launched from a submarine, hence is an SLBM
(SLCM is a cruise missile.)
of development of the SLBM/SLCM could not be confirmed but what
could be confirmed was the targeted date for the test launch of
the missile itself. A highly placed source directly involved with
India’s prestigious, albeit long-suffering, advanced technology
vessel project (ATV Project) — a euphemism for the indigenously
being-developed nuclear submarine — disclosed to The Indian Express
that Sagarika will have its first underwater flight test in September
2001. According to a retired Naval intelligence source, this means
Sagarika is already ready and waiting for tests or in a very advanced
state of completion. That is why the frenetic activity to have the
P78 underwater missile launcher delivered to the Navy before April
2001 makes sense.
assumes significance since it is the first solid and tangible fulfilment
of the aim of the ambitious draft Indian nuclear doctrine to possess
a viable and credible ‘‘second strike’’ capability to inflict ‘‘unacceptable
damage’’ to an attacking enemy. It is a matter of recognised strategic
principle that a viable and credible second nuclear strike capability
is vested with sea-launched, in particular nuclear-propelled submarine-launched
missiles, because they are difficult to track down using air or
surface-launched enemy missiles.
Government has consistently denied the existence of both the ATV
project and the development of the SLBM Sagarika with a range of
about 300 km.
no one is about to admit to the project. However, once the underwater
missile test takes place in September, it will be there for the
whole world to see,’’ the source said.
by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), needs
to have a nuclear-powered submarine, for conventional diesel-powered
submarines do not have the logistics and manoeuvrability to launch
the missile from under water.
that, despite its long and chequered history, the indigenously designed
ATV Project is well on course since the ATVP and Sagarika complement
talked to AK Anand, director, reactor project group of the Bhabha
Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Anand refused to either confirm or
deny it. However, on a recent visit to MAPS (Madras Atomic Power
Station) and IGCAR (Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research) sources
at Kalpakkam confirmed to this correspondent that the nuclear reactor
for the submarine was being fabricated there.