INS Arihant is considered a “game changer” in terms of the country’s nuclear deterrence.

The Indian Navy on October 14 conducted a successful test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, launched from INS Arihant, the country’s first domestically produced nuclear-powered submarine. INS Arihant is considered a “game changer” in terms of the country’s nuclear deterrence.

According to the Indian Defense Ministry statement, the missile “impacted the target area in the Bay of Bengal with very high accuracy”. Details of the missile were not disclosed, but said that “all operational and technological parameters of the weapon system have been confirmed”.

INS Arihant is the first of five ballistic missile submarines planned by India Navy to be built domestically as part of the Advanced Technology Vessel project. After being commissioned in 2018, the submarine was initially believed to be armed with 12 nuclear-capable K-15 Sagarika ballistic missiles, with a payload of 1,000 kg with a maximum range of about 750 km. Meanwhile, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization is developing a more powerful missile, the K-4, with a range of about 3,500 km. Arihant-class submarines will be able to carry four K-4 missiles.

The INS Arihant submarine can carry out nuclear deterrence missions, sailing with ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. The INS Arihant is of particular significance to New Delhi, serving as “a key element of New Delhi’s nuclear deterrent”. The Indian Ministry of Defense added that the successful user training launch of the SLBM by INS Arihant is significant to prove crew competency and validate the Ballistic missile submarine program.

In November 2019, India proposed a military doctrine with a nuclear triad, including the ability to strike nuclear weapons from the air, at sea and on land. With the successful launch on October 14, India completed the trio of nuclear deterrence. Unlike ground-based bombers and missiles, submarines are arguably the most difficult to intercept of the trio.

India officially became one of the six countries possessing the capability of nuclear strike from the air, at sea and on land. Five other countries have mastered this capability: the US, UK, France, China and Russia. The test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile reflects a step forward in India’s ambitions for self-reliance in weapons production. The Asian country is currently one of the world’s largest arms importers, largely dependent on Russian military hardware.

It is not surprising that India has sought to perfect its nuclear triad as it has a strained relationship with two neighboring nuclear powers, Pakistan and China. New Delhi is committed to the “no first use” nuclear doctrine. However, the specter of a nuclear conflict still looms over the region, especially given the extremely complicated relationship between India and Pakistan.


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