India on Wednesday said its first home-built nuclear submarine was set for sea trials, as it detailed billion-dollar projects to arm its navy with warships, aircraft and modern weaponry.
The indigenous 6,000-ton INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was unveiled in 2009 as part of a project to construct five such vessels that would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles and torpedoes.
“Arihant is steadily progressing toward operationalization, and we hope to commence sea trials in the coming months,” Indian navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters.
“Our maritime and nuclear doctrine will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea,” Verma said.
Arihant is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometers an hour, according to defense officials.
It will carry a 95-member crew.
The Indian navy inducted a Russian-leased nuclear submarine into service in April this year, joining China, France, the United States, Britain and Russia in the elite club of countries with nuclear-powered vessels.
Verma said 43 warships are currently under construction at local shipyards.
The first of six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines under contract will join the Indian navy in 2015 and the sixth by 2018.
The admiral said the navy was also poised to induct eight Boeing long-range maritime reconnaissance P-8I aircraft next year.
Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the debut of Arihant seems like a symbolic gesture, and the submarine’s power as a strategic deterrent requires further evaluation.
Media reports said the advent of Arihant may pose a direct nuclear threat to Pakistan and China, yet Fu indicated that the submarine’s influence currently remains in the Indian Ocean.
The submarine is equipped with non-nuclear missiles.
Russia previously decided to lease the Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine to the Indian navy in September 2011.
India paid Russia $650 million for the 10-year lease of the submarine, which was renamed Chakra.
In April Chakra was formally included in India’s navy and made India the sixth country in the world to own a nuclear-powered submarine.
The submarine was later moved to an Indian navy base to be used as a training vessel for the first Indian-built Arihant missile-carrier submarine.
In 2008 leasing of the then-Nerpa was postponed after a malfunction in the fire safety system killed 20 Russian sailors.