All trials completed and production has begun
India will shortly induct K-15 missiles armed with nuclear warheads into INS Arihant, the indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine.
This follows several successful launches of K-15 missiles from a pontoon off the Visakhapatnam coast. Informed Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources told The Hindu that all the trials of K-15 which has a strike range of 700 km have been completed and its production had already begun.
Sources said India was the fifth country to have this kind of technology, where a missile carrying a nuclear warhead could be launched from under the water. The other four countries are the United States, Russia, France and China. “This technology is complex because the missile is launched from under the water and it is launched from a manned platform [submarine]. So, safety of the personnel on board is of paramount importance. Safety and reliability of the systems should be very high,” the sources added.
Arihant will carry 12 K-15 missiles. Besides Arihant, which has been built at the Visakhapatnam Naval Dock Yard, India is building two more nuclear-powered submarines for commissioning into the Navy and their hulls are being fabricated at Vadodara.
After its launch from under water, the 10-metre tall K-15 will rise to an altitude of 20 km and cover a distance of 700 km. A gas generator will push K-15 from out of water. Arihant’s reactor will be commissioned by the end of this year, informed sources said.
Arihant is powered by an 80 MWt (thermal) nuclear power reactor which uses enriched uranium as fuel and light water as both coolant and moderator. The enriched uranium has been fabricated at Rare Materials Plant at Ratnahalli, near Mysore.
The nuclear power reactor which will propel Arihant is similar to the Light Water Reactor commissioned at Kalpakkam. The Kalpakkam reactor also has capacity of 80 MWt and is being used to train the Naval personnel who will be manning Arihant and the other nuclear-powered submarines under construction.
The DRDO is developing another submarine-launched missile, K-4 which will have a range of 3,000 km. The first flight trial of K-4 will be conducted soon from a submerged pontoon off Visakhapatnam.
Once the n-powered submarines carrying the K-series get inducted, the triad of India’s nuclear deterrence capability will be completed. While the Agni series forms the mainstay of the land leg, fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30 and Mirage-2000 will deliver warheads for the air version.