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