J. Balaji & Sandeep Dikshit

It is likely to be named INS Arihant

Sea trials may take two years

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will launch India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine at Vishakapatnam for trial on July 26.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy conveyed this to journalists here on Saturday after meeting Dr. Singh to discuss various issues pertaining to the State. Top defence and Navy officials will participate in the programme.

Dr. Reddy said Dr. Singh might visit the State next month, to participate in various programmes, including laying the foundation for the joint project between NTPC Limited and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited for manufacturing power equipment at Srikalahasti in Chittoor district. The top-secret ‘Advanced Technology Vessel’ (ATV) project will re-induct India into the exclusive club of five countries that operate nuclear submarines, called silent killers for their extensive ability to remain under water because of nuclear-powered engines unlike the diesel electric versions that have to come up to recharge their batteries and thus stand a greater chance of being spotted. India briefly used a nuclear submarine leased by Russia from 1988 to 1991. Since then it has been trying to build one of its own. It has signed an agreement for the transfer of a couple of nuclear-powered Russian Akula class submarines, one of which is likely to be inducted by the Indian Navy this year itself. The sea trials are just the beginning of a difficult testing process for the ATV and are likely to last two years till it is cleared for operational duty.Conceived in the 70s, the project became operational in the mid-80s and while its existence was public knowledge, the government was in consistent denial about it. At Navy Day press conferences year after year, the Navy Chiefs denied knowledge about the project. However, recently Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the project was in its final stages.

According to reports, the submarine might be named INS Arihant (destroyer of enemies). More than becoming a member of a group comprising the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K., the nuclear submarine will give India a credible three-leg nuclear deterrent. India has ground based missiles and aircraft that can deliver nuclear warheads but needed a nuclear submarine that can slip under water and emerge to strike at a time and place of its choosing.

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