Sanya analogue on Andhra Coast

The story in today’s ‘Sunday Express’ about the Chinese hackers penetrating the Eastern Navala Command’s communications hub and planting bugs to relay any info or communication involving the Arihant SSBN, etc.  China’s strategic concerns understandably revolve around the deployment patterns of the Arihant-class ballistic nuclear missile-firing nuclear powered submarine (SSBN), the performance aspects of this boat, and especially the new submarine facility being built to get around the operating difficulties posed by Vishakaptanam given its narrow, vulnerable, channel to the open sea.

The mention in the story of the Chinese interest in the strategic submarine base as alternative to Vizag that is under construction elsewhere on the Andhra Coast frees those of us who have known about this upcoming base to be a bit freer  on the principle that what is known to our principal adversary, China, should also be available to an interested Indian public!

The limitations of Vizag (a narrow, vulnerable, channel from the port to the open sea that in the 1971 conflict with Pakistan led to the Paki sub PNS Ghazni to lie in wait for the carrier Vikrant to come out to sea before torpedoeing it, but which wait resulted in a mishap and explosion inside the sub that sank the Ghazni instead) compelled the shifting of the strategic submarines operations base to a site that promised easy underwater entry and egress from a tunnel excavated well below the waterline in the cliffs rising from the sea, making the detection and tracking of subs in and out of the base difficult. Because on India’s east coast there is no long continental shelf but a sharp drop in the depth, this underwater submarine complex — first mooted for the Karwar base (Project Seabird) — was shifted to the east. (Such a basing concept was first featured, as many may recall, in a James Bond film, but is not any less practical for it!) It is a near analogue of the Sanya base that PLAN has built on Hainan Island to house and run its SSBns and SSNs of the South Seas Fleet from. Except, Sanya does not, to the same extent, enjoy the advantage of (warm water) thermal layers that so complicate sonar detection and tracking in the Indian Ocean.

With the debugging and correctives adopted by IN, China cannot rely over much on whatever information it may have gleaned about the Arihant-class SSBN deployment mode and pattern that the Indian naval planners may have contemplated. It is likely however that it has information re: Arihant’s performance in harbour trials

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sanya analogue on Andhra Coast

    • Well, the Chinese have built a hole in the cliffs around Sanya that goes well below the waterline, so PLAN SSBNs and SSNs can ingress and egress from the Sanya base w/o detection. Except, the waters in the South China Sea are colder than say the waters of the enclosed Indian Ocean and so Indian submarines using a similar kind of base under construction on the Andhra coast, will also be protected by the more complex thermal layers — that make sonar and other kinds of sub detection in the tropical waters around India, more difficult.

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