September 24, 2018

INS Arihant Wouldn't Operate in 2018 Without Russia's Huge Technical Help

Indians with access to the facts have long stated Russian contractors gave major help in building Indian submarines INS Arihant and developing its reactor.

RAKESH KRISHNAN SIMHA's, October 26, 2015 RBTH, at  states:

"“But the project was still not getting anywhere,” says V. Koithara in the book Managing India’s Nuclear Forces. “India then sought and got much more substantial Russian help than had been envisaged earlier. The construction of [Arihant's] hull began in 1998, and a basically Russian-designed 83 megawatt pressurised-water reactor was fitted in the hull nine years later.”

Ashok Parthasarthi, a former science and technology adviser to the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sums up the extent of Russian assistance: “India's first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant...would have just been impossible to realise without Russia’s massive all-round consultancy, technology transfer, technical services and training, technical 'know-how' and 'show-how,' design of the submarine as a whole, and above all numerous operational 'tips' based on 50 years of experience in designing, building and operating nuclear submarines.”



Anonymous said...

I remember mentioning here a few months ago that, the Russian 'Show How' especially at the Kalpakkam land based test bed reactor was probably the most critical help given to the Indian SSBN program.

RBTH has a Russian bias but the overall claim that India was helped in a huge way by the Russians is true. The 'show how' was apparently the thing that enabled Arihant fructifying into India's first SSBN. It is a pity it has not to led to a push for the creation of a whole industry to make domestic SSKs and SSBN/SSNs.

Considering the still 'languid' nuclear sub building ecosystem, it is likely we will see one new IN SSBN every 4-5 years and the first domestic IN SSN (with luck) by the mid-2030s.

PS: Lynceans has put out an updated version of their magnum opus in July 2018. fyi please.

Pete said...


On "show how" ...

Yes it may take India 5 years to build an actual full sized SSBN with full sized K4 missiles (from Bay of Bengal without range to hit Beijing which may need to wait for a 6,000+ km range full sized "K5" SLBM).

I haven't noticed any progress with an IN SSN - so launch by 2035 might be accurate. Maybe India could work with France on an IN "Barracuda" SSN?

Thanks also for the Lynceans tip. I've located Peter Lobner's "Marine Nuclear Power 1939-2018" at

including Indian maritime nuclear at



GhalibKabir said...

The chances of the eventual Indian SSN being a Barracuda-Akula Mix is considerable. Especially if the new 75I project extends the usage of the Scorpene design for the next 6 SSKs (similar to Brazil, Naval Group might be asked to help with the non-nuclear design aspects)

The problem is going to be designing the reactor in such a way that enables quick ramp up of power for 'sprints' and rapid ramp down in a similar fashion (plus keeping it reasonably quiet in the process...). The SSN reactor is quite a challenge compared to the SSBN (IMHO)

Considering China took 3-4 decades from 1971 onward in getting a mature SSN design in the form of the Type 93 and Type 95, India is likely to take longer (with all the capriciousness of the Indian bureaucracy working against the very outcome it is supposed to facilitate)

Pete said...

Hi GhalibKabir

I imagine that Russia and France might not want their latest SSN technology (including reactors) that they share with India, on-passed to other countries.

But such technology transfer may be partly mitigated, with the passage of time, by the 2030s.

Yes, if Project 75I means an additional Naval Group sale and Indian build of 6 additional Scorpenes (carrying some Barracuda tech) this would increase the chances France would help with the Indian SSN Project.

The complexities of India developing a quickly ramped up and down SSN reactor might be further complicated if the reactor is based on conflicting Russian (HEU) and French (LEU) reactor solutions.

True that China taking up to 4 decades to build a still noisy? inefficient? SSN reactor might take India 5 decades.

Clearly much off-the-shelf (for cash) hull and reactor technology is needed. This may boil down to an Either/Or approach, ie. India paying for:

1. an Indian Yasen (with design plans and first sub construction) OR

2. (design plans and first sub construction) from France for an Indian Barracuda SSN.



GhalibKabir said...

Passing on tech I think is a secondary concern or probably not one, as even the Russians or for that matter any IP holder will not share the bits that are the most important (totally understandable too).

I think the HEU path is kinda fixed unless a future FMCT signing forces a shift to LEU or relations with the US go south (limiting yellowcake supplies so to speak).

Likely the French and Russians might help with non-nuke design aspect mostly with the Russians may be doing a minimal bit of 'consulting' on the reactor design side. The reactor heavy lifting will have to be local. No choice and probably as India's space program shows, it pays in the longer run better than anything else.

The SSN is likely to be a Barracuda-Akula mix (Yasen lease was refused last year)

Pete said...

Hi GhalibKabir [at 10/10/18 3:02 PM]

Yes Indian modification of reactor designs would be more suited to Indian Ocean conditions and would put India in a better position on major reactor repairs..

Russian HEU reactor designs are likely to last longer (maybe 15 years) between refueling while France's K15 LEU reactors are limited to 10 years (by convention) between refueling (using a specifically French process in France).

The Akula technology is quite old (part going back to the late 1970s) so its a shame Russia can't officially release much Yasen technology.