India’s Navy has become a major global player. Arguably, it has the second-strongest carrier aviation force in the world. Its navy is on the upswing as well, with powerful new destroyers and frigates entering service. Now, it has taken a new step forward – joining the “boomer club.”
India commissioned INS Arihant on the down low this past August. This is India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) – and it means that India becomes the sixth country in the world to operate such a vessel. The other five are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and the People’s Republic of China.
The Arihant is a derivative of the Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, one of which was leased by India in 2012 as INS Chakra, two decades after India returned a Charlie I-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN) with the same name. The big difference between the Arihant and the leased Akula is the addition of four launch tubes, which can carry either a single IRBM known as the K-4, with a range of just under 1900 nautical miles carrying a warhead with a yield of up to 250 kilotons (about 12.5 times more powerful than the nuke used on Hiroshima), or three K-15 missiles with a range of 405 nautical miles.
India’s nuclear deterrent is run by the Strategic Forces Command, which will not only handle the Arihant, but which also handles India’s land-based ballistic missiles (the Prithvi and Agni series), and India’s aircraft-delivered nukes (usually from tactical aircraft like the SEPECAT Jaguar, the MiG-27 Flogger, and the Mirage 2000).
INS Arihant gives India a technical nuclear triad. According to TheDiplomat.com, India’s first boomer is seen as a testbed and training asset. India’s future boomers (follow-ons to the lead ship) will carry twice as many tubes, making them more akin to operational assets.