The second indigenous Arihant-class SSBN, INS Aridhaman, is completely outfitted and ready — the production time of some 10 years from the time when the special steel was first cut at the Vizag special projects facility. It doesn’t quite match the time needed to produce the Ohio-class SSBN rolling out of the General Dynamics Electric Boat facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and Groton, MA, which complex has by now manufactured over a hundred SSBNs and SSNs for the US Navy. But India is well embarked on the SSBN manufacturing front.
Aridhaman will be fueled up ten days from today, i.e., around September 5, and the more powerful nuclear reactor in it (than in the Arihant) will be fired up soon thereafter. The vessel will then be ready to undergo harbour trials and conduct shallow dives before the trials take to the open sea.
Not too long ago, the Chinese Navy launched its Liaoning-class aircraft carrier with much fanfare. It will take PLAN 15-20 years to integrate the carrier into fleet ops. India’s more strategic riposte with the Aridhaman, especially with the continuing eyeballing situation in the Doklam area of the trijunction, is a perfect reminder to the Central Military Commission headed by the recently anointed “Supreme commander of the people’s army”, Xi Jinping, that it won’t do his regime any good exercising the intimidation techniques of threatening, huffing and puffing, feints, etc. recommended by the ancient Confucian strategist Suntze in lieu of actual action. If the hope is that a sufficiently cowed adversary will back down, India’s posture to-date will have belied it. India is not backing down. So Beijing has a choice of withdrawing as gracefully as it possibly can, and lose face partially. Or, stick on and lose face totally.
The Aridhaman, moreover, has 8 tubes to launch the K-4 2,500 km SLBMs — twice the number of tubes as the Arihant, and can carry some 24 land-attack K-15 missiles as well. The twin SSBN set will by end-2018 be able to drop a whopping nuclear load on Shanghai and the coast line to the east and west of that metropolis — the main wealth-generating region of China. Not a bad thing for the 2nd Artillery Strategic Forces to keep in mind. Meanwhile, with the second Akula-II SSN — the agreement for its lease from Russia is at the stage of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s — entering IN service, the Liaoning will be well advised to stay clear east of the Malacca Strait.
There’s general relief in the ASEAN states and the now Brahmos-armed Vietnam as also in the Far East, particularly Japan, with the recent developments in South Asia. India’s firm handling of the Doklam issue, which together with the second Indian SSBN soon showily taking to the waters, will increase manifold the confidence of the states on the Chinese periphery in India, and help douse the dragon’s fire. And its ‘tianxia’ ambition.