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India's Nuclear Triad


INS Arighat is reported to be inducted in 2021 thus strengthening India’s Nuclear Triad. The following article analyses the current status of a maritime leg of the triad and at what stage do our neighbours stand regarding this.


Nuclear Submarines can be classified into two categories, first the SSN (subsurface nuclear) and second, the SSBN (sub surface ballistic nuclear submarine). The SSNs are often said to be the nuclear attack submarines but the SSBNs carry the Submarine Launch Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and Submarine Launch Cruise Missiles (SLCMs). Even though nuclear energy is used for propulsion of both the submarines, the ability to carry nuclear warheads bolsters the second strike capability of the country in possession of SSBN thus creating better deterrence where the SSBN is used.


The Nuclear Triad can be described as the capability of the country to launch nuclear missiles from air, land and sea. Until 2018, only the United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China (the P5 countries) possessed this capability. India joined the club in 2018 when the first subsurface ballistic nuclear (SSBN) INS Arihant completed the deterrence patrol.

INS Arihant. Source: The Print

Until now, India only has two Nuclear Submarines, INS Chakra II (Akula Class Russian SSN) and INS Arihant (Arihant Class Indigenous SSBN). The first SSN of Indian Navy INS Chakra I was leased for three years from Russia back in 1988. The SSN INS Chakra II was leased from Russia for ten years and was inducted in 2012. Both the countries agreed on a US $3 billion deal for INS Chakra III which would be acquired in 2025.

INS Chakra. Source: The Print

While INS Arihant was built indigenously in shipyards of Visakhapatnam, certain Russian assistance was involved. It was launched in 2016 and Nuclear Triad was achieved in 2018 with the formal announcement of Arihant's first deterrence patrol in 2018. It has been reported that the second SSBN, INS Arighat will be launched in 2021. Moreover, two more SSBNs namely S4 and S4 star are being built. It is often argued that for deterrence, the Naval Force would require four SSBNs, one in use, two in transits and the fourth one under repair and maintenance.

INS Arihant and Arighat are reported to have four missile tubes and carry displacement of 6000 tonnes. The next two SSBNs are reported to have eight tubes and relatively larger displacement.


Commodore Anil Jai Singh highlighted how second-strike capability is the core of the nuclear deterrence. Indian Navy does not rely on the K15 missiles for their second-strike capabilities. In January 2020, K-4 missiles were successfully tested by DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) which has a range of 3,500 kilometres. It is reported that INS Arighat will be armed with twelve K-15 missiles and four K-4 missiles. Moreover, the K-5 missiles are as well under the pipeline which would have a range of 5000 kilometres. These long-range SLBMs would form the heart of the Naval leg of the Nuclear Triad.


Unlike the US, UK and France, India is not part of any security alliance through which capabilities can be modernized. However, considering nuclear hostility with neighbours, New Delhi has to improve deterrence capabilities. In 2013, China started to send SSN submarines as part of their anti-piracy missions and Human Assistance and Disaster Relief operation in the Indian Ocean Region. With this realization, India not only has come a long way in improving its Nuclear Submarine Programme but also strengthening the anti-submarine warfare system.

Compared with Chinese capabilities, the maritime strand of Indian Triad stands relatively low. Chinese PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) possesses around four Jin-class (Type 94) SSBNs which are armed with Ju Lang – 2 SLBMs (7000 – 7,500 km) and nine Shang Class (Type 95) SSNs.

Chinese JL 2 Missiles. Source: Global Security Organization

On the contrary, officially Pakistan stands as the odd man out amongst the three neighbouring Asian Nuclear Powers. It does not possess a sea leg of Nuclear Triad, but it has tested the Babur – III missiles, a sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) of mere 450 km range. However, with installation on Khalid Class Submarine it provides Pakistan with sea deterrence. A rationale behind Pakistan developing short-range missiles seems to be that for the refraining country, it would be a small stipulated time to track the missile in the initial phases of flight. Once the missile enters the terminal phase, it would be the difficult or refraining country to eliminate the threat through defensive capabilities.

Babur III Missile


However, India’s Nuclear Submarine project comes with its difficulty and challenges. First, for the utilization of SSBNs, several attack submarines (SSNs) are required. Currently, only one in use i.e. INS Chakra II, optimum usage of second SSBN sounds unclear. To overcome this gap, under Project 75 Alpha, six SSNs were to be built indigenously by India. SSNs also bolster the command and communication of SSBNs and prove to be stealthy escorts for the same. With domestic production of these SSNs and SSBNs, the domestic defence industry will get a major boost as well as this project highlights the cooperation between the Ship Building Centre (Visakhapatnam), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and DRDO. BARC plays a major role in these projects because it will provide the technology required for installation of nuclear reactors in submarines.

Second, considering the conventional warfare and ‘Blue Navy’ role of the Indian Navy, a certain amount of differences can be felt regarding whether to focus on nuclear submarines or conventional SSKs. The conventional diesel submarines have a greater advantage because they are relatively harder to detect. Furthermore, Nuclear Submarines are always regarded to have better ability to stay submerged. To wedge this gap, Indian Ship Building is using the Air Independent Propulsion System, which can be found in the recent INS Vagir, a Scorpene-class submarine which was launched under Project 75I, which aimed to develop six scorpene class SSK submarines. However, Nuclear Submarines are better armed than conventional ones and are strategically important for deterrence.



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