New Delhi, Nov 27: India's first indigenously-developed nuclear-powered nuclear attack submarine, Arihant, has successfully test fired a dummy or unarmed missile, reliable sources said.
The vital first test in ejecting a missile from its onboard silos was conducted on Wednesday, proverbially adding a feather to the cap of the Indian Navy and scientists from DRDO and BARC, the sources said.
The firing was done remotely from a far away location by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), India's nuclear command authority which is tasked with creating nuclear deterrence.
To mention more achievements, the submarine has also successfully completed its critical diving tests, and significantly, met nearly all its design and designated parameters just about 100 percent, including the maximum possible power option tests.
It is actually good news all over, but the final step before the submarine is formally inducted in the Indian Navy as INS Arihant, will be the firing of proper missiles - albeit with unarmed warheads. Details are unavailable but this should happen soon enough as there are indications of the submarine taking part in the International Fleet Review (IFR) being hosted by the navy in February, 2016.
The boat should be operational by then.
Notably, only operational ships and submarines can take part in an IFR.
The missile fired was a dummy version of DRDO's B 5, which approximately has a range of 800 km to 1,000 km. Later, missiles with a reach of 3,500 km to 4,000 km are likely to be inducted onboard.
India plans to build some half-a-dozen Arihant class submaries in line with its nuclear doctrine which calls for No First Use but Massive Retaliation if attacked.
Arihant is built with Russian designs, but this will be the country's first nuclear attack submarine, classified in international naval lingo as SSBN.
India has one more nuclear-powered submarine, INS Chakra, leased from Russia, but that cannot fire nuclear missiles. The classification for such boats is SSN.
Like any submarine, both Arihant and INS Chakra are pearl shaped to accommodate the vertically launched missiles, and designed to move faster underwater than on the surface. They can stay deep in the darkness of the oceans for months, the only restrictions being the limits on human tolerance and availability of nuclear fuel.
It may be recalled that the project for nuclear submarines was sanctioned soon after the 1974 nuclear test by prime minister Indira Gandhi but it suffered when Morarji Desai and V.P. Singh occupied the office in the coming years.
In 1983, Gandhi once again pushed the project with required funds, but it was only in 1998, when India conducted the second round of nuclear tests, that prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sanctioned the project afresh and a decision was also taken to involve the private sector. Larsen & Toubro, India's premier engineering construction company, was involved right from then onwards.
L&T, as it is known, has done commendable work in gradually and systematically building a horizontal supply-chain base and meeting the DRDO and naval specifications. DRDO, or Defence Research and Development Organisation, has been in-charge of the India's missile systems programmes throughout, which it has delivered with distinction.
Nuclear propulsion systems have been installed and managed by experts from BARC, or Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
Indications of Arihant's journey have been coming out for some time, and recently, the Indian Navy chief, Admiral Robin Dhowan, mentioned the possibility of its inclusion in the IFR although he did not understandably commit anything.
The tests are done one-by-one and for a nuclear boat, every single check is critical.