Sea trials and weapon trials pending, says senior naval officer
The third of the Arihant-class SSBN (Sub Surface Ballistic Nuclear) submarine code-named S4, was quietly launched some time in the last week of November in Visakhapatnam.
Though this was not officially confirmed by the Ministry of Defence or the Indian Navy so far, sources in the navy and Ship Building Centre (SBC) in Visakhapatnam, where India’s nuclear submarines are being built, have confirmed it. The soft launch of S4 was first reported by UK-based Janes Defence Weekly, citing satellite imagery sources.
The construction, commissioning, testing and status of the SSBNs are directly under the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) or the Strategic Nuclear Command (SNC), which is under the control of the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). Confirming the launch, a senior naval officer said that the launch of a submarine is nothing more than getting the outer hull floated in water. It was in the dry dock area till now and it is now in the water. It is still a long way for sea trials, weapon trials and commissioning, he said.
The first of the SSBN pack, INS Arihant (code name S2 was launched amidst much fanfare, when it was launched on July 26, 2009, with Gursharan Kaur, wife of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, breaking a coconut on the hull, to mark its launch in Visakhapatnam.
S3 undergoing sea trials
But it took almost five years, since its launch to undergo its first sea trails some time in December 2014. INS Arihant was finally commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August 2016.
As per sources, the second in the pack, S3 or INS Arighat is ready and is undergoing advanced sea trials. To complete the nuclear triad (nuclear weapon operability from air, land and sea) India aims to have at least four SSBNs. It is learnt that S4 is bigger in size, tonnage and capability compared to S2 and S3.
Sources say unlike S2 and S3, which can carry four K-4 or 12 K-15 SLBMs (submarine launched ballistic missiles), S4 is being built to accommodate eight K-4 or 24 K-15 SLBMs.
The missiles can be launched through vertical tubes, when the submarines are in submerged state.
The K-4, developed by DRDO, is tested and cleared for production, is variant of land-based ballistic missile Agni – III, and has a range of about 3,500 km.
On the other hand, K-15 is the variant of Shaurya and has a range of 750 to 1,500 km, depending on the size of the warhead.
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