SLBMs to plug the major gap in Defence Preparedness: India must test Submarine Launched ICBMs for Balance of Power in the World
At the start of the Second World War, Adolf Hitler’s dream was to defeat Great Britain and to have lunch in London. But, his dream was shattered by the British willpower to fight and due to his strong navy. The advanced naval forces saved Britain from the deadly powerful German forces at that time otherwise Great Britain would have met the same fate as Poland, France and other European nations, which came down on their knees to the German Blitzkrieg. In today’s world naval strength can be pegged on the capabilities of submarines which are the most versatile and powerful weapons of war.
Recently, on Jan 10, 2023, Russia launched the ‘Poseidon’ (previously known as ‘Status-6’) nuclear-capable torpedo which has its roots in Soviet plans under Joseph Stalin during the Cold War when he thought for a nuclear torpedo which would be able to reach the shores of the United States. In a 2018 speech, Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin said the range of the torpedo would be unlimited and that it could operate at extreme depths at a speed many times that of any submarine or other torpedoes.”They are very low noise, have high maneuverability and are practically indestructible by the enemy. There is no weapon that can counter them in the world today”. The torpedo is a nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Its nuclear propulsion system gives the Poseidon virtually limitless range. The Poseidon will be carried by the K-329 Belgorod; a special-purpose nuclear submarine that was built by the Sevmash Shipyard and is the world’s longest submarine.
As the US and USSR (now Russia) had been operating the nuke submarines since the cold war and both have powerful blue-water navies. In the Indian context, the status of a ‘blue-water navy’ was a distant aspiration. Though the journey has begun late but on the right path now.
India Enters Nuke-Submarine Club
On Oct 14, 2022, India’s testing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from INS Arihant (SSBN) was a major milestone in Indian defence preparedness. The test was carried out using a missile with a dummy warhead hit the target accurately. India became the first country after the P-5 members that have demonstrated the ability to launch SLBM. In 1988 India had taken its first Charlie class nuclear submarine ‘INS Chakra’ on lease from the Soviet Union. The experience gained is useful for India. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report recommended a nuclear triad forces in India. In Nov 2019, with the entry of INS Arihant completed India’s “Survivable Nuclear Triad ”- the capability of launching nuclear strikes from land, air and sea. Now India is in the league that can design, construct and operate strategic strike nuclear submarines (SSBN). Now two more submarines INS Arighat and INS Aridhaman are likely to be launched soon next year. The test carried a missile of K-15 with a range of 750 Km and K-4 range of 3500 km. These submarines can be fitted with K-series of missiles which have been named after Dr Kalam and now K-5 and K-6 nuclear-capable missiles with a range of 5000 to 6000 km are under development. These developments are essential for the nuclear-triad and’ Credible Minimum Deterrence’ (CMD) that underpins ‘No First Use’ Policy.
India’s need for SLBMs
Recall the devastations of German U-boats when after terrorizing trans-Atlantic Ships in during World War-1 these U-boats grew even more fearsome in Second World War. German submarines almost completely controlled the Trans-Atlantic route while sinking at least 8000 merchant ships and warships of allied powers. In today’s world the submarine as a strategic asset is even more important to access to the world’s Oceans and dominating the territorial waters. Russia took control of the port-facilities in Crimea in 2014, because Russian Black Sea fleet was established in the Crimean peninsula. All routes to Black Sea were interconnected with the other routes through the Sea of Azov and Mediterranean Sea that will make Russia’s reach to Asia. Similarly Chinese access to the South-China Sea to the Pacific to Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden to the Atlantic Ocean and even China’s reach from Gwadar of Pakistan to Coco Island in Myanmar near the Indian shores. As India has no overseas base: our strategic reach must be in the World Oceans to protect India’s economic and strategic interests. As China has been working on the projects of making ‘stealth’submarines so as not to forget the lessons learnt from the 1962 war and counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’.
New Technological Developments
In June, 2022, 14 NATO allies and two partner nations Finland and Sweden, participated in ‘Exercise Baltic Striker’ to show coordinated approach with new techniques of air-naval warfare. Britain and Sweden had also conducted joint air war drills at sea to repel the naval attacks and both countries’ fighters showed their skills, interoperability, professionalism and capability to defeat the enemy at early stages. This clearly signals to increase naval prowess in future warfare to prevent air attacks. This shows submarines are powerful weapons against these types of attacks. Furthermore, these will not be easily detected by radars and Satellites’ monitoring systems due to rapid movement and can move to longer distances with nuclear weapons. India’s lateral entry to SLBMs club is a sign of India’s defence preparedness and make in India’s ‘Atamnirbhar Bharat’
Recently, China launched its first seaborne drone carrier that can function independently, was delivered in China’s Zhuhai on January 12, 2023. According to some military experts, the Chinese military might also employ drone mothership to gather intelligence in the disputed South China Sea, where numerous nations have conflicting territorial claims. The Chinese PLA Navy has also been working on an unmanned surface vessel (USV), known as JARI and also developed an Electromagnetic warfare station in the South China Sea. All these developments are a serious concern for India, the US, and other democratic countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Such a crucial technology equipped with nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles can create turbulence in the world’s balance of power.
Implications for India
India’s ‘No First-use’ policy is flawed in nature if an adversary can attack there will be little options for India. To annihilate the enemy must be accurate and completely devastate the enemy if anyone can use the nuclear option against us. So our nuclear forces are always on alert in case of any misadventure by the enemy. According to a US Intelligence report, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has 60 to 70 ready-to-attack submarines. The Pakistani submarine fleet is equipped with torpedoes and Babur-3 SLBM with a range of 450 km. So, there is no need to exaggerate the testing of this SLBM. These are necessary for India for three reasons:
- China has developed and armed its submarines, unmanned surface vessel (USVs), and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to sail in the Indian Ocean and its naval bases in other parts of the world.
- India must increase numbers in its submarine fleet and its arsenal and send a clear message to India’s adversaries especially China who has taken the port Hambantota from Sri Lanka for 99 years to access the Indian Ocean as China commonly says the Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean.
- We have to put our submarine fleet on alert mode with the capability of launching missiles from underwater to underwater, underwater to air, underwater to surface, and underwater to space and also nuclear-capable strategic intercontinental missiles.
There are plans to build six nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN) under Project 75 Alpha. These will be six thousand ton submarines. Three submarines will be built this year. There are plans to build three more in 2024. These will join the Navy in 2032 A.D. These will have Varunastra heavyweight torpedoes. Nirbhay, Brahmos-2 hypersonic land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles will also be fitted. But I think only six submarines are not enough for the Indian Navy. In 1972 ABM Treaty will prohibit the missiles which can pose danger to world peace as the missiles can persuade the missile race in the world. If one country makes an ABM then the other will have more missiles to attack. So, both the US and Russia are making missiles even after the treaty. Now, American giant Lockheed Martin also takes millions of dollars for underwater hypersonic nuclear missiles for development. It is time to make super weapons for India.
As we don’t need any war. But, today the world is on the brink of war. If we don’t prepare we will suffer the most. So testing of nuclear-capable intercontinental SLBMs for defence preparedness is necessary. India must develop and test; the K- series (i.e. K-5 and K-6 which are under development and to make plans for K-8, K-9, K-10 and K-12 and must be tested in the future) for balance of power in the world. There is also a need to start a new program Project-76 to build 6-10 more versatile attack submarines for sail in the world’s oceans. The SLBMs are stealth weapons and are the game changers in the world balance of power. Today, the present world scenario is more complex because of the multipolarity and due to ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. China and other countries are moving fast towards making deadly missiles including underwater warfare capabilities and we cannot be the mute spectators of seeing all these developments.
Acknowledgement: I would like to gratefully thank Lt Gen JS Bajwa for feedback and Guidance on the earlier version of this article.
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