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.



GhalibKabir said...

I would agree with both the points raised. Both matching the Indian Ocean conditions and longevity of the fuel in a HEU reactor as opposed to a LEU.

Akula tech is old, I do agree. But as India's space program shows (for instance the chips used are 2-3 generations old design, but they work), some old combined with some new (such as cross learnings from SSK building esp. from DCNS) should ensure a overall decent submarine.

There will be limitations such as inability to learn about advanced tiling on the sub skin, miniaturization, sonar tech etc., still the benefits IMO outweigh the drawbacks.

you might find the above an interesting read.

Pete said...

Hi GhalibKabir [at 18/10/18 12:17 PM]

Yes against the known technical standards of Chinese SSBNs and SSNs India incorporating a whole imported Akula and Akula tech in the Arihant class may be adequate. If China makes largely uncheckable strides in nuclear sub performance then India may need to improve its own nuclear subs more quickly than usual.

Data from all sources, including that consciously provided by SSK firms and Russia, will be necessary for India in a rolling process.

As India (unlike Australia) has a comprehensive military nuclear complex it is in a good position to refuel reactors once or twice during the life of a submarine.

Thanks for . This has many lessons for Australia, which I'll write about tomorrow.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

The Chinese already making uncheckable and unmatchable strides.

Already in the SSBN segment Type 96s are under construction and Type 98 in advanced stage of planning.

Type 95 is already out and Type 97 is in an advanced stage in the SSN arena while SSKs like Type 039 are already rapidly growing as China boosts AIP capabilities.

What is more interesting and scary is their Naval battle plans blending the use of large Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs), 055 cruisers/destroyer/frigates with smaller sub hunter boats and their submarine component complemented by armed UUVs and related ELINT, SIGINT capabilities...

Sometimes I wonder if the unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), UUV like swarm attacks which is usually the stuff of sci-fi movies might become a reality thanks to this 3 decade long meticulous execution of plans by China. I am quite sure China using heavy force is a matter of when and not if.

Pete said...

Hi lots of questions you raise [at 1/11/18 8:04 PM]

So I assume the main driver of Type 096 SSBNs (maybe launch 2022?) under development are:

- improved quieting, eg. quiter reactor which may allow future 096s to operate more individually east (more open sea-ish) of the first island chain, and

- ability to carry a more effective warload, improved, probably larger JL-3 SLBMs maybe 10,000km range. Intention being ability to reach all of US and the siloed ICBMs of central Russia.

Type 098 (maybe launch 2030?) with JL-4s? (equivalent to with 12,000+ range) 098 quieter, with less bastion dependence

Type 095 SSGN quieter with 6+ VLS (basically to use VLS and torpedo tubes for the most rapid multiple launch of anti-carrier group anti-ship missiles OR more concerted wave of land attack missiles).

Chinese Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) useful for Pacific and Indian Oceans for SLOC protection, Mid East counter-insurgency and anti-Western + Indian navies.

Maybe China's unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) development is less impeded by the US efforts (ultimately managed by the pilots who run the USAF and USN)?



GhalibKabir said...

This is a good read. The PLAN has apparently laid down 6 type 055 cruisers with 128 VLS + 21 RAM type launcher. The Chinese link below shows 2 type 055s nearing completion along with 4-5 type 052Ds (64-80 VLS).... almost Tom Clancy in scale (wipes brow)

the type 055 will be next only to the Kirov and will be more modern...

This is apparently the facility in Huludao Bohai making Type 09-V (095) SSN with LCFR (one finished nearly and 4 being built apparently... some say no it will be 2020 before any proper construction gets underway... but my hunch is atleast 1 095 SSN is getting done.)

The submarines are getting the cruiser/destroyer/frigate assembly line treatment (China has built over 40+ destroyers/frigates, 2 aircraft carriers, many LPDs in just 12 years from 2005)...a truly insane spree. 3-4 Type 094s under construction, 10+ type 039 SSKs, 5 Type 095 SSNs...

the numbers are simply breathtaking...add in corvettes, submarine chase boats and UCAVs, UUVs... unsettling to say the least.

GhalibKabir said...

here is the first type 002 carrier under construction with Liaoning next to it being refitted apparently,121.6128682,450m/data=!3m1!1e3

By the looks the carrier under the gantry cranes might be nearly 75-80,000+ ton... and 3 more are apparently going to be laid down in the next 2-3 years making PLAN a 6 carrier navy, to ensure availability of 3-4 carriers always..

About the Tang 096 class or the future 098 I dunno. But I assume China will want a solid fueled Layner or Trident type SLBM having true ICBM range in excess of 10,000 km...the JL-3 might be the first step to an eventual R-29 Layner type SLBM.

Pete said...

Hi GhalibKabir

Thanks for your 2 comments [ 2/11/18 5:11 PM and 2/11/18 5:50 PM ] above on Chinese subs and carriers.

I'll reply tomorrow on the second most holy day (after Anzac Day) on the Australian calendar.

That Day is Melbourne Cup Day when that exalted horse race stops the nation.

Melbourne Cup is greater than the Kentucky Derby and Ascot rolled into one.



Pete said...

Hi GhalibKabir

Re your 2/11/18 5:11 PM

There seems to be geo-blocking of popsci which makes untraceable from here.

Using popsci search doesn't help, with only non-specific results and then only up to 30 June 2018.

Please cute and paste the text of and send text as a comment?