Commissioning Aridhaman & Carriers

Image result for pics of Indian K-15 or K-4 missile

(Underwater pontoon launch of K-15)

Around a  fortnight from today, the fueled up INS Aridhaman, the second nuclear-powered ballistic missile-firing submarine will be officially commissioned into the Indian Navy. It will be the pleasant duty of the new Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to actually break a coconut — not a champagne bottle — on the hull of the SSBN.

The Aridhaman too is an Arihant-class boat but with more onboard firepower — 8 vertical launch tubes for the 1,500 km range K-15 and 2,500km range K-4 Mk-1 (seaborne Agni-III) missiles  — with the 5,000km range K-5 Mk-II (seaborne Agni-V) missile under development but coming up fast. The weapon mix will of course be determined by the aim of the nuclear counter-strike mission. In comparison, Arihant carries, besides the K-15, also the K-4 — but has available only 4 missile silos aft of the conning tower.

In fact, the Indian Arihant-class SSBN seems far larger and more powerful than advertised by the government or the navy. It looks like the Arihant displaces some 8,000 tonnes as against its publicized tonnage of 6,000 tonnes. The follow-on sub — Aridhaman and the two other SSBNs in this class are larger still.

Naturally, this sort of tonnage cannot be pushed by a relatively  puny 90MW miniaturized light water reactor. Matching the displacement with the power plant would put the latter at anywhere between 120MW-150MW for the Arihant, and nearer to 200MW for the Aridhaman.

The SSBN would not have been possible — it must be gratefully admitted, without seminal help and assistance from Russia, which has been surprisingly forthcoming in parting with strategic technologies. Those in the Indian military enamoured of Western tech and imports, should sit down and enumerate what technologies the three armed services have actually received from the US and France before they begin yapping incessantly about the so-called mil high-tech Western countries supply and are prepared to part with in the future. If anybody in the GOI/MOD/armed services are even a little honest they will realize that the sole aim of Western govts and arms industries is to sell gullible 2nd rate states 2nd rate equipment dressed up with lots of bells and whistles to impress the yokels. And then the most critical tech will NOT be offered other than as “black box” technologies (even for the antiquated F-16!) . If it is anywhere near cutting edge hardware, such as the electro-magnetic aircraft launch system for carriers, it is made accessible to India only because their own services are finding it hard to absorb, cost-wise, and the govts and companies need a foreign buyer to amortize their R&D investments and to reduce the unit cost for their own militaries.

The EMALS on the USS Gerald Ford nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, for instance, costs the American Navy $3 billion. General Dynamics wants upwards of $5-$6 billion for each EMALS unit sold to, yea, the sucker primero — India. This while Washington has made it plain that the deal for it will not come with the nuclear reactor (required to generate the enormous power to needed to drive the EMALS) the Indian naval brass desperately desired. The alternative — EMALS with several GE LM 2500 gas turbine power packs, makes little sense.

As it is, aircraft carriers are dead in the water with supersonic cruise missiles such as the Brahmos. With hypersonic weapons coming soon large ships will become all the more vulnerable and, by and by, extinct. Not that any of this will deter the naval aviation types — most of them not surprisingly graduates of the US Naval War College. Except the US Navy with a ship strength of 370 bottoms and rising deploys as escort flotilla a minimum of 5-7 frigates/missile destroyers and 1-2 submarines pulling picket duty for each of its 11 carriers. Translate that into IN terms, and most of the capital ships will be not out there asserting presence, showing flag, doing sea control but protecting the carriers. Should MOD/GOI approve 3 aircraft carriers, it will mean 15-21 surface combatants and 3 or more subs pulling police duty for the carriers out of a strength of some 50 odd fighting ships and 20 submersibles (by 2025). It will be a bit like the hordes of police and NSG protecting our VVIP netas even as there are no police to spare for their main role — of keeping criminals off our streets and our throats. Moreover, carriers are impressive in peace time; in war they are, what, sitting ducks?

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.
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30 Responses to Commissioning Aridhaman & Carriers

  1. Venkat says:

    Manmohan singh thanked the Russians during launch of the first nuclear submarine. Yes it would not have been possible without their support.
    There is only so much money for defence. We are not expansionist power at all. So eventually irrespective of what wishlist is drawn up, the purse size will determine what Navy gets. Navy needs to prioritise.
    We need to get to 30 submarines quickly , I guess even South Korea operates 18 (hope i am right on this one).
    Let IAC-1 be made operational. Let us learn pros and cons from that ship . Then build IAC-2. There is no shortcut while building up local,capability.

    This of course assumes the war gamed by defence services can justify multiple aircraft carriers.

    Meanwhile navy needs to get its basic weapons like NMRH, heavy torpedos for submarines. Then we need force multipliers like long range drones to back up P8I (we no longer fly the long legged Tuploves). We are also desparateky short of mine sweeping ships, is it not. ?

  2. raja says:

    1.For maintenance & repair of the SSBNs ,can we do it locally or to be sent abroad?
    2.What is the real issue behind mig29/35? For the help they rendered in SSBNs mig29/35 could have been bought.
    3.We build carriers because steel is cheap?
    4.How the chinese manufacture amphibious planes, bullet trains, freighters, awacs internally?
    5.why chinese didn’t partner with anyone for aero engine development.They pour money and effort like concrete.But we believe someone will part with it for price. Why this divergence in thinking?
    6.Will india go out of relevance in the next 10 years?
    7.If we start now , we need to grow @10% pa for the next 40 years to equal china. Else we will also be running in the race into the future.
    8.Now-a-days Russian circus not conducted in India!

    “War is three-fourths threat and one-fourth force”

  3. devraj says:

    Sir,north korea tested nuke of 250kt yield.but media report say the mass of that tested nuke is 4ton.indian missiles carry 1-2 ton mass nukes.usa and russian missiles carry such heavy load to long range accuratly.but usa and russian missile tech are incomparable.even chinese missiles cannt load 4ton nuke to long range accuratly.indian agni v cannt carry 4ton nuke to long range.then how noth korea carrry such nuke to inter continental range to usa.even 4ton heavy nuke cannt be target to japan and south korea leave alone usa.its impossible for north korean missile capability

  4. Reasoned says:

    Agree with carriers being sitting ducks in a war, but the primary purpose of a carrier is peacetime domination, to let the adversary escalate if he wishes to and then reply with a huge force, that’s why the Chinese are building carriers. Nuclear powers can rarely afford to take out each others AC causing escalation,so the full fledged war not being an option between Nuclear powers they resort to peacetime domination ,and for that , you need aircraft carriers. Submarine can only be used in a war time , India needs combination of Aircraft carriers and Submarines for both peace and war time domination.
    It’s like having a SAM system and fighter aircrafts, SAM’s are useful only in wartime but fighter aircraft’s can be use to posture and dominate the sky in the peacetime ,sending various signals to adversary without crossing the threshold , and consequently achieving the objective – as they say -without firing a single bullet

  5. raja says:

    West,east and middleeast
    fox,money and mullahs
    Emperor and starvation

    “nature abhors a vacuum”

    “Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.”

    Read more at:

  6. raja says:

    last by seneca!

  7. raja says:

    pakistan is providing covering fire for china’s future trade!

  8. raja says:

    The effects of the mutually reinforcing triangle will be felt in the next 7 years.

  9. raja says:

    Resp sir,
    The evolving future:

    1.Triangle of Middle east (as a block), Russia, China will start showing up in the next 7-10 years.
    2.Some FSU countries will cluster around Russia.Many asian countries will be around china.
    3.Satellite countries of India will also be under the chinese influence.
    4.Strong inroads in african countries for china.
    5.European countries will stand behind Germany.They will maintain a good distance with US.
    6.US will have a loose relationship with India and other smaller powers. (kyunki sas bhi bahu thi type soap matter relationship!)
    7.Central asian countries market will be divided between Russia and China.
    8.Middle east reconstruction will be greatly facilitated by Russia and china.
    9.Entities mentioned in 2 will benefit a lot due to the linkages.
    10.SCS and other issues will get solved.If at all concessions will be given and all will acquiesce.
    11.In a rapidly saturating world that will be the only way forward for the asian countries.
    12.Pakistan will gain prominence and will be the middle east Nking with dollops of proliferation to all concerned.Its population also would have increased well.
    13.Middle east will start identifying itself as the empire of muslims in the modern world.
    14.Loss of oil revenues will force convergence in the middle east combined with other factors(!) will have a powerfully reinforced relationships among them.
    15.Middle east may suffer technology denial from the west which may open up them to china and Russia at a faster rate.
    16.And finally…India:
    Entertainment, domestic elections,scams,…cricket!!!

  10. raja says:

    funny country and funny people (including me!)

  11. Rahul(kol) says:

    Around a fortnight from today, ariddhman will b ‘commissioned’….seriously?? Or ariddhaman will be ‘launched’??

    • Commissioning, launching….whatever.

      • Rahul(Kol) says:

        No sir, commissioning means ready for deterrent patrols with fully loaded arsenal; any nuclear strike on India and Ariddhaman will be ready for retaliation….

        Launching means taking it from dry to wet dock as the hull is complete, all other work to be started and harbour acceptance, sea trails and weapon trails to be done before commissioning.

    • Shaurya says:

      My understanding is most of the work in the sub is complete when launched. Weapons integration, sea trials will soon follow before commissioning. So, this process is unlike a surface vessel, where only the hull is “launched”.

      • Rahul(Kol) says:

        No dear, you are well off the mark…Had this been the case, Arihant wouldn’t have taken 7 years, from 2009 till 2016 to be commissioned. After launch, the nuclear reactor has to go critical before harbour and sea acceptance trials. Nuclear reactor going critical takes a lot of time as there is no scope for any mistake.

  12. Vivek says:

    any news about agni 6?

  13. Rao says:

    RADM Nair and many others have confirmed in the past that INS Aridhaman will be similar in size, propulsion and firepower to INS Arihant. What is the basis of your statement that they are bigger and have more firepower ?

  14. andy says:

    A Carrier Battle Group showing flag would certainly be more effective than a one off Frigate or Destroyer,if the primary aim is to show maritime prowess to friends and foes alike.That said,what are the alternatives to a CBG?That depends on what the purpose would be,if the purpose is three dimensional sea control then more Aircraft Carrier Battle groups are the only way this can be achieved. Only a CBG can dominate vast swathes of the oceans that could be thousands of miles away from home base.This dominance is assured by a CBGs aircraft-based surveillance and strike capability plus the surface and sub-surface strike capability of its accompanying warships.

    If the purpose is sea denial then more Submarines are the answer.But only submarines cannot hope to achieve three-dimensional control over a large expanse of ocean, far from one’s shores, which is the basic task of a carrier battle group.For sure an aircraft carrier is vulnerabe against modern cruise missiles but then so are other surface platforms.Also any cruise missiles would have to traverse the whole gamut of multilayered anti missile defences of not only the Carrier but also the other platforms in the battle group.So theres going to be a big difference in the number of missiles launched against the Carrier and the number that actually hit the target.Plus its not easy to sink a 40000+ tonnes ship with a one off missile strike ,unless there’s a saturation missile attack and a good number of them actually hit the target{ which is a highly improbable scenario }the Carrier wont sink.Not to forget the fact that the enemy themselves would be under fierce attack from the CBGs surface and sub surface strike capabilities ,so in all likelihood they would be more at risk of being taken out than the Aircraft Carrier they were trying to target.This is for missiles tipped with coventional warheads, if a nuclear tipped missile is launched and succeeded in sinking an Indian flattop then nothing stops Indian ballistic missiles from popping up mushroom clouds in the extended suburbs of Shanghai and Islamabad.

    In conclusion it would be right to point out that this whole “to have or not to have Aircraft Carriers” debate has surely been settled in the navy’s long-term maritime capability perspective plan, which specifies three aircraft carriers and a fleet of 24 submarines.

  15. Sir, do you really believe that its size is more than 6000 tonnes, i mean the weight displacement is around 6000 tonnes as said by the GOI

  16. Satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Did you mean K-4 MkII or K-5 ? Will the Aridhaman be capable of launching the K-5 ? Will the K-5 carry MIRVs?

  17. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    $5-$6 billion for each EMALS unit that too without the nuclear reactor.

    What kind of sea control or area dominance will that give, which cannot be matched by a Tu-160 or two Backfires with their AShM and Kalibr.

    Chinese went on to inventorize large number of Bombers and Anti Ship Missiles and Submarines and only now are venturing into Aircraft Carriers after having matured on all other meaty portions in the table of equipment. Indian Navy remains anemic on sub count, missile count, no bombers and fake ASW aircrafts (with no ISR imaging) and still thinks it must have CBGs with Aircraft Carriers as the centre piece.

    Chinese navy grew like that because it had to contend with navies several times bigger (US+Japan+South Korea). We will also have to face a much bigger navy in future but Indian Navy is planning like its a provincial police force.

    • andy says:

      “Indian Navy remains anemic on sub count, missile count, no bombers and fake ASW aircrafts (with no ISR imaging) and still thinks it must have CBGs with Aircraft Carriers as the centre piece.”

      Really?how enlightening,you certainly have insight and tend to bring out stuff that no one else is aware of,bravo.

      Ah the slimy one speaks up,why am I not surprised?Probably you don’t understand the meaning of 3 dimensional sea control,kindly look it up.And why are you dreaming of TU160s and backfires when the IN doesn’t have any?and not likely to have them anytime soon in the future. INS Vikrant was in the IN since way back,so wether someone likes it or not CBGs are going to be the mainstay of the IN in future as well.Only a pea brained amoeba would not understand this fact,guess thats what we are dealing with right now.You want the IN to follow the Chinese model ?please dream on its not going to happen.

      Regarding Emals its not required, steam catapult would do just fine,ie if the IN must have a CATOBAR Aircraft carrier ,otherwise STOBAR would do just fine.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Three dimensionality is threatened in the first dimension itself.

        Also may be INS Vikrant is not the ideal example for strength based on imported materials.

        Vikarant was a new ship partially constructed that we had purchased. Rather it was Nehru ji and his merry men, who had purchased it. The thing just whiled its time away in the Goa War. The water drums had to be imported from Britain in 1965 so again it sat out the war. Crippled in 1971 with aircrafts having to land at near stall speeds. One major reason cited for bringing the Vikrant into action was that the aviation wing would lose heart not having done anything. Indian Navy had to offer one of its own ships as a bait to keep Vikrant out of harms way. And finally the subcontinental military leadership talent was the only thing that saved the Vikrant. Pakis blew themselves up while their best submariners were still inside. For the records, out of the 3 possibilities voiced, one does allow for Indian depth charges having done the trick – IOW, ASW may be very very important. But had it not been for a lousy incompetent outnumbered enemy in East Pakistan the tale could have been very different. The repairs shop for Vikrant were on the West Coast of India and was only assigned to the Eastern Naval Command just before the 1971 war, to keep it out of harms way. Against a stupid enemy a little less stupidity will always win. PAF pilots freelancing as recce spotters, in the West actually managed to have their own ship sunk. That was the level of stupidity. Relic of the British Commonwealth commanded by the one who choose the Brit side in the RIN mutiny. Students of that man are still holding fort.

        On the other hand you can easily see what the missiles of 1971 vintage could do in Karachi and they did that twice in the same war. Despite the fact that the missiles of 1971 vintage were not even optimized for littoral warfare and land strikes. You want to pit these huge tugboats against latest generation missiles. You can certainly hold that position. Who am I to preach. But here are the facts. A big aircraft carrier has several decks and the fuel is stored below the waterline along the hull while reactors are also in the deepest parts. The magazine is protected by dummy/empty compartments. To reach these parts you need kinetic energy in the projectile, a very high degree of accuracy and an ability to explode the thing from inside-out. One hull can easily be breached by a subsonic projectile. But to breach seven you will need something really heavy travelling very fast and the rest is the job of the KE = 1/2 mv^2. For every unit increase in velocity the Kinetic Energy increases by a squared value. So for example if we presume that a Mach 1 projectile has only enough energy to breach 1 hull then a Mach 3 projectile will have 9 times the kinetic energy. Mach 4 would have 16 times the energy and Mach 8 would have 64 times. All these projectiles are either already a reality or will be soon.

      • andy says:

        Can you please specify what exactly is not threarened in the military sphere?Just because something is threatened we are supposed to throw it away or what?Are fighter Aircrafts not threatened due to new age anti aircraft platforms?or are tanks not threatened due to 3rd gen ATGMS?or isnt the Infantry more vulnerable due to new age firearms?By the logic being put forward all the Fighter jets and tanks or even Infantry should be shelved.

        Your favorite Chinese are still struggling with the intricacies of operating the Liaoning, so before deriding the INS Vikrant it would be nice if you took a pause and checked why Indian naval aviation is so far ahead of their Chinese conterparts.Its thanks to the INS Vikrant so don’t be such an ungrateful wretch.

        Also the same Chinese are hell bent on having a total of 6 aircraft carriers wonder what their reasons are if the Aircraft Carrier is such a vulnerable platform?

  18. I see confusion coming from lack of a clearly defined objective? We love to hedge everything as a people. We believe that the middle path is always superior. Define objectives and make tradeoffs.

  19. Rao says:

    On your consistent advocacy of using Tejas as the main base platform of light air combat in the Indian Air Force, please see the following video from the 45th Squadron Flying Daggers:

    Do policy makers still have doubts that its a weak aircraft???

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