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India on a nuclear super-highway
India is set to launch its first nuclear submarine later this year which if successful will put the country in an extremely exclusive club of hi-tech defense powered nation.
Currently Indian defense system only has few battery operated submarines, that are way back in technology as compared to the nuclear once. The last time the Indian Navy operated a nuclear submarine was in the late 1980s, when it leased a Russian Charlie class vessel.
 
The project codenamed the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) has been crawling since 1974. Now what does ATV actually mean?
The nuclear haves are increasingly relying on sea-based nuclear deterrence in preference to land and air segments. India has a number of foreign-produced cruise missile systems in its arsenal, to include Exocet, Styx, Starbright, Sea Eagle, and perhaps the Russian Sunburn supersonic missile. It also has some indigenous cruise missile systems under development to include the Sagarika and Lakshya variant.
 
The Sagarika (Oceanic) began development in 1994 as a submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) which will have a range of at least 300 kms (a few claim 1000 kms); it was projected for deployment around 2005. The program has met with considerable delays and the missile is not expected to become operational before 2010. It will probably arm India’s nuclear submarine, the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV).
 
India is a nation that fights for entering the select group of countries that build nuclear powered submarines. Even after three decades it still had not presented results that could modify the current picture of the navies with nuclear propulsion. India has been working actively since 1985 to develop an indigenously constructed nuclear-powered submarine, one that was based on the Soviet Charlie II-class design, detailed drawings of which are said to have been obtained from the Soviet Union in 1989. This project illustrates India’s industrial capabilities and weaknesses. The secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to provide nuclear propulsion for Indian submarines has been one of the more ill-managed projects of India.
 
Although India has the capability of building the hull and developing or acquiring the necessary sensors, its industry has been stymied by several system integration and fabrication problems in trying to downsize a 190 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) to fit into the space available within the submarine’s hull. Reports now indicate that India has overcome the biggest problem or miniaturisation of a nuclear power plant that is to be mounted on a submarine hull. The Proto-type Testing Centre (PTC) at the Indira Gandhi Centre For Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, was used to test the submarine’s turbines and propellers. A similar facility is operational at Vishakhapatnam to test the main turbines and gear box.
 
According to some accounts India planned to have as many as five nuclear submarines capable of carrying missiles with nuclear warheads. The Indian nuclear powered attack submarine design is said to have a 4,000-ton displacement and a single-shaft nuclear power plant of Indian origin. Once the vessel is fully completed, it may be equipped with Danush/Sagarika cruise missiles and an advanced sonar system. However, according to some analysts the most probable missile for the Indian submarine would be the Yahont anti-ship cruise missile designed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
 
In 2004 it was reported that the first ATV would be launched by 2007. At that time it was reported that it would be an SSGN and displacing some 6,500 tons, with a design derivative of Russia’s Project 885 Severodvinsk-class (Yasen) SSN. The ATV multirole platform would be employed for carrying out long-distance interdiction and surveillance of both submerged targets as well as principal surface combatants. It would also facilitate Special Forces operations by covertly landing such forces ashore. The ATV pressure hull will be fabricated with the HY-80 steel obtained from Russia.

This way it would have the possibility of multiple performance: it could use missiles of cruise of average reach (1,000 km), ballistic missiles of short reach (300 km), torpedoes and mines, besides participating of operations special. The vessel displaces 6,500 tonnes and can stay submerged for upto 100 days. Armed with guided missiles, it can carry a crew of 70 people. India is also in negotiations to acquire two Russian-made nuclear submarines of the Akula class.


Some Important stats:
  • Vessel Type: Submarine
  • Country: India
  • Program Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV)
  • Total Number 4-6 Unit Cost (US$) 1B (Est.)
  • Builder Vishakapatnam Naval Dockyard (VND) with assistance from Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL).
  • Displ. Tons 5,500 – 6,500
  • Length 100m (328ft)
  • Beam 15m (49.2ft) 
  • Draft 9m (29.5ft)
  • Machinery Nuclear: one pressurized water reactor (PWR) using 20% enriched uranium fuel (160-190MW); one turbine (47,000hp/70MW); one shaft; one 7-bladed, high-skew propeller. 
  • Speed (Knots) 12-15 (surfaced) 30-34 (submerged).
  • Range Unlimited. Diving Depth 300 m (984.2ft).
  • Complement Undetermined.
  • Weapons Torpedoes: Six 21 inch (533mm) torpedo tubes. Mines. A total capacity (mines, torpedoes, and missiles) of 30 weapons.
  • Missiles Submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCM) using either a vertical launch system or a torpedo tube launch, surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), and a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Note: All the above data is estimated and not exact.

If this is successfully achieved, then it would be valid to assume that the Indian Fleet will count on four to six of these submarines until the year of 2020.

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