April 2, 2017

India's Submarine Project 75i reportedly in "limbo"

The Indian K-4 SLBM (under testing) may, with a lightweight warhead, reach most of China, but this is only from launch points in the northern Bay of Bengal. Such predictable launch points, near land, are especially vulnerable to submarines - all partially Chinese manned - from nearby Bangladesh, Pakistan and from China itself. India sorely needs an SLBM with a range of 6,000 km to render its future SSBNs less vulnerable. (Diagram courtesy DRDO, H I Sutton, The Diplomat)

Following Indian submarine progress - Slow progress commissioning. of March 31, 2017 below are further comments from the same Anonymous.

On 1/4/17 2:31 AM Anonymous commented

"A number of things if I may add ( as the contributor anonymous :) )"

“1. Currently BrahMos is too big [at 700 mm diameter] to be fired from even 650 mm torpedo tubes. Range at 450 km initially while the eventual 800 km version will likely be considerably modified. One issue the IN I think still could face is in the realm of target tracking surveillance etc for effective use of the BrahMos as a land attack cruise missile (LACM). The Indian navy might need practice with networking of [Long Range Mission Planning?] “LRMPs etc to ensure 2 way link and updated target info for BrahMos and Nirbhay (subsonic can do TERCOM unlike supersonic missiles). Then they would be true force multipliers.”

“2. if I remember right Arihant has test fired K-4 ( whether to full range of 3500 km is questionable), however integration is still under progress apparently.”
[Wikipedia - In April 2016, it was reported that [a K-4] missile was successfully tested on 31 March 2016 from INS Arihant, 45 nautical miles away from Vishakhapatnam coast in Andhra Pradesh. The missile with a dummy payload was launched from the submarine in full operational configuration. The trial was carried out with the support of the personnel of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and DRDO provided all the logistics. The missile was fired from 20-meter deep and covered more than 700 km before zeroing on the target with high accuracy reaching close to zero circular error probability (CEP).[13][16][17][18][19] ]

“The YouTube video that is there in the public domain clearly shows Russian technical hand as the SLBM release resembles Russian launches uncannily.”

“3. INS Aridhaman will carry 8 K-4 missiles and will in all probability be in excess of 8,000 tons submerged. There is satellite picture of shipbuilding center Vishakhapatnam that shows a clear outline of a docked submarine. The length in excess of 100 m could be a strong hint that it could be the Aridhaman.” I will refrain from posting the link” [Pete has added this already published in early 2015 satellite photo of a docked small SSBN size at Vishakhapatnam. Unclear if the small SSBN is Arihant or Aridhaman!].

4. “Project 75i is in limbo as the strategic partnership issue apparently is not yet fixed at the policy level. TKMS with its Type 214 or even 209Mod would not be a bad choice and their PEMFC AIP is quite good. [With Manohar Parrikar abruptly departing his Defence Minister job on 13 March 2017], this area might go cooler. This is while [new Defence Minister (since 13 March 2017) Arun Jaitley] settles in to review this vexing strategic partnership issue... Apparently there are two differing opinions in the MoD bureaucracy. Nuclear subs with sufficient speed, diving ability and silent ops features might even clip [cancel] the need for [Project 75i] multiple ocean going AIP SSKs.

5. "PS: One theory I am recently liking to think about is that India could be going for a universal SSGN/SSBN. you might remember my comment on the validity of difference between the SSBN and SSN any longer. If the Russians help is going to be lukewarm in the future, a dual role. My personal opinion is a 3 tier sub solution of small subs ala type 210, AIP SSKs and SSBN/GN would be needed.”

Anonymous and Pete


GhalibKabir said...


It does look like the folks managed to give Aridhaman a more powerful reactor (I did hear roughly 100 MWt or approx 16MWe or 20,000+ shp)

with 8 K-4 SLBMs this sub when inducted circa 2019-2020 should become the first SSBN to be properly patrol worthy.

Peter Coates said...

Hi GhalibKabir

I'll do a post on future Aridhaman details tomorrow.

Aridhaman's possible 100 MWt reactor is interesting. Might it be a version of Arihant's 83 MWt with a higher HEU rating than Arihant's?

See subheading ARIHANT'S REACTOR PERFORMANCE at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/submarine-propulsion-test-reactor-needs.html

or is it a lower HEU version of Russia's 190 MWt reactor?
at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/submarine-propulsion-test-reactor-needs.html

or a power improvement over the Soviet/Russian VM-4 reactor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VM_reactor

Interesting Argentina may be developing a 100 MWt naval reactor. See of Page 68 of http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/Replacing_HEU_in_Naval_Reactors_Report_FINAL.pdf?_=1458832580



GhalibKabir said...

I am not sure what they did with Aridhaman to uprate it... I am inclined to doubt both the higher HEU fuel premise and the revised reactor design premise. The former looks plausible while the latter less so (unless a larger reactor for the SSN program is on as a black-ops project).

About Brazil and Argentina, I may be wrong, but if I remember correct barring an intermittent program on a LEU powered small modular test reactor (for marine propulsion), I thought Brazil and Argentina had

1. Way too many financial issues to dunk a few billion dollars on the N Sub program

2. Technological teething troubles owing to lack of meaningful external support from the likes of say an Areva (despite the 2008 partnership) or the Chinese (you might be interested to know that PLAN trained on the Sao Paulo for carrier ops in the 2000s, the CN-BR relationship is quite good)

3. corruption issues esp in Brazil hitting the nuclear top brass materially impacting the already low hope of getting an SSN program to chug along.

I assume it be safe to say that a SN-BR SSN or an Argentine SSN is unlikely to be a reality till say 2030-2035 and even that will need luck. The Brazilians might make it, who knows...

PS: apparently china laughed at Argentina's request for reactor design assistance telling them bluntly that operating and maintaining a SSN was no joke financially.

GhalibKabir said...

To add my further two cents on the OK 650 reactor point you have raised,

The fact that India added a few 10,000 SWUs new enrichment capability between 2011 and 2016 makes me doubt the lower enriched fuel hypothesis.

Indian N subs are designed to run on 40% HEU and the new enrichment facilities in Karnataka state seem consistent with that aim.

I am sure India is carefully studying the Akula sub reactor, however I doubt if India has managed to make a say 150 MWt reactor. If it has then Indian SSN program will get a good tail wind. The Chinese parallel of 58 MWt to 100 to 150 plus MWt makes me think India would have done well if it can say it managed to get 4-5 MWe extra from updating current power plant. 100MWt would be achievement enough.

PS: this HEU thingy is one reason India finds it very helpful to hide behind Pakistani refusal to sign the FMCT and refuses to sign it itself. This is another sticking point which India wants resolved as part of NSG membership before it will agree to sign the FMCT.