- Indian Nuclear Submarine Fleet Development Program:
PIR Arms Control Letters, Letter Of March 1999
- © PIR Center. March 15, 1999
- Arms Control Letters Arms Control Letters is a
monthly newsletter of the PIR-Center for Policy Studies in Russia, sent
to the e-mail boxes of the world leading experts in the field of arms
control, nonproliferation and international security.
- According to our experts, among all perspective military projects
in India, the largest one is a build-up of the Navy, especially its nuclear
- By 2004, India is expected to accomplish a large ship-building program
aimed at creation of national nuclear submarine fleet. New Delhi plans
to have five nuclear submarines capable of carrying missiles with nuclear
warheads. In this connection, Indians being strongly oriented in their
military development to technical cooperation with Russia, were reported
as willing to purchase ships and equipment from their key partner. At
the moment, according to some Russian and foreign experts, the national
program for development of sea-based missile Sagarica (meaning
"oceanic" in Hindi) is still a far cry. Sagarica appears to
be an anti-ship underwater-launched cruise missile being developed with
direct participation of certain Russian design offices.
- According to the First Scientific Research Institute of the Russian
Navy in St. Petersburg studying development trends of Russian and foreign
naval forces, the Indian Navy have been built up as follows: in 1950-1968,
India mainly acquired surface warships decommissioned from the British
Navy. In 1968-1971, it started buying weapons and military equipment >from
the USSR and developing self-dependent production of certain items. Within
that period, India purchased from the USSR 8 submarines of I641
and I641K series (in 1967-1974), 8 corvettes of 159 AE
series (in 1969-1974), 8 guided missile boats of 205E series and
several auxiliary ships. Within 1968-1975, with the technical assistance
of British companies Vickers and Jarrow, India initiated
building of 6 Leander type frigates at Mazagon shipyard
- The next period of Indian Navy reinforcement began in 1983-1990, when
it purchased from the USSR five destroyers of 61ME series (in 1983-1988),
three corvettes of 1234E series (in 1983-1984), six base type minesweepers
of 1258E series (in 1983-1984), 8 submarines of 877EKM series
(in 1985-1990), and from West Germany - four 209/1500 type submarines,
two of which were built at Howaldtwerke shipyard in Germany, and
two others - at Mazagon shipyard in Bombay with German technical
- At present, the Indian Navy has all major types of warships: aircraft
carriers, destroyers and frigates, armed with missile and artillery or
only artillery weapons, antisubmarine corvettes, diesel powered submarines,
missile and conventional type boats, minesweepers. According to Russian
military experts, Indian leadership considers Navy as one of the main
tools for turning the country into a leading regional power, and is prepared
to use every effort to reach that target.
- At the same time, the declared peacetime mission of the Indian Navy
is the protection of the 12-mile territorial waters and 200-mile economic
zone. In case of war, the Indian Navy should be ready to counteract operations
of its neighbors, i.e. Pakistan and China. Therefore, the top-priority
agenda of naval development for the nearest future includes increasing
of the number of warships and their modernization, as well as technical
improvement of weapons and Navy equipment.
- These plans are based on India's willingness to build the lacking
ships on its own at national shipyards or buy them abroad. At that, Indians
do not rule out the possibility of purchasing not only ships, but also
technical documentation for their production under license. The only difficulty
impeding implementation of these plans is insufficient development of
certain key industries like non-ferrous metallurgy and electronics, poor
industrial equipment, low productivity, research and development. These
are the problems that stipulate for the necessity of purchasing modern
ships, weapons and new military technologies from abroad, and from Russia
- The backbone of Indian submarine forces is nine diesel powered submarines
of 877 EKM series (Kilo class by NATO classification) designed
by Rubin design office in St. Petersburg, and several similar type
submarines of 209/1500 type, built by German JKL company.
At present, the government enterprise Admiralteiskiye Verfi (St.
Petersburg) finishes building of the tenth Kilo-class submarine
for the Indian Navy. This ship will include certain innovations enhancing
its combat capabilities. First of all, it will be armed with Biryuza anti-ship
subsonic cruise missile system.
- On December 26, 1997, the same enterprise started building two diesel
powered submarines of new generation (Amur-1650 series) for the
Russian and Indian Navy. The concept used in Amur series enables
various modifications of the ship through variation of its armament and
the use of anaerobic power plants. All those issues have been discussed
with Indian Naval Command and it was agreed that the warships would be
built not only in Russia, but also at Indian shipyards under license.
- Such is the official aspect of military cooperation of the two countries.
Still, according to the estimates of some of the experts involved, its
shaded area is none the less important, and it deals with India's desire
to have nuclear submarines.
- There are different versions of what is going on in this sphere. One
of them belongs to Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Apanasenko, the acting Chief
of Staff, Deputy Chief of the Department of Shipbuilding, Weapons and
Operation of the Russian Navy. According to him, there were no deals with
India in the field of leasing Russian nuclear submarines recently, and
the Russian Government got no official requests from India on the part,
and 'there can be no activities on preparing nuclear submarines for rent
or sale without routine bureaucratic formalities'.
- Last time, the issue of leasing nuclear submarines was raised in the
late 1980s. Then, in January of 1988, India rented the Soviet nuclear
powered attack submarine of 670A Skat series (Charlie class
by NATO classification) with eight Ametist (SS-N-7 Starbright) anti-ship
missile launchers for three years. In the Indian Navy, the ship was called
Chakra. The submarine was manned by a Russian crew training Indian
seamen to operate it.
- 670 Skat project (nuclear powered submarine with cruise missiles)
was started in 1960 in Gorky by Lazurit design office headed by
Chief Designer V.P. Vorobyov. Skat having 4,980-ton displacement
and 100-men crew was the first Soviet nuclear powered submarine armed
with Ametist (SS-N-7 Starbright) anti-ship underwater-launched missiles
with the flight range of 120 km, manufactured by NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
The submarine could be used in combat operations against aircraft carriers
and other big warships, transports and escort ships at oceanic and sea
- The main armament of the ship included 8 Ametist (SS-N-7 Starbright)
anti-ship missile launchers, capable of carrying nuclear warheads and
mounted outside the firm hull (four on the starboard and four on the port
side). Four 533-mm and four 400-mm torpedo launchers were placed in the
submarine bow. Target designation for the anti-ship cruise missiles and
torpedoes was provided by Kerch hydro-acoustic system. The submarine was
equipped with a surface buoy-type antenna ensuring reception of radio
messages, target parameters and satellite navigation signals while being
at a big underwater depth.
- The distinctive features of the design were a fusiform hull as well
as a single-shaft, single-reactor (VM-4 type water-cooled and water-moderated
reactor) low-noise 19,000-hp power plant. The speed of the submarine was
26 knots submerged. Successful technical solution combined with optimized
weapons system enabled the ship to efficiently place fire at air attack
groups and easily penetrate enemy's anti-submarine defense lines. It were
those high performance characteristics that attracted attention of the
Indian naval officers who were choosing a nuclear submarine most appropriate
for the Indian Navy. Later, Skat became not only training ground for the
Indian Navy personnel, but a design laboratory for developing and testing
indigenous nuclear submarine technologies.
- Upon expiration of the ship leasing term in 1991, the submarine was
returned to Russia and decommissioned from the Russian Navy. Officially,
since that time there were no talks on further cooperation in that sphere.
However, the fact of India's leasing nuclear submarine is noteworthy and
deserves a more detailed study, for it were Russian seamen who taught
Indians to operate the submarine, and the former apprentices have
taken key posts in Indian design offices developing nuclear submarines.
- The nuclear submarine development program has been implemented in
a number of scientific research centers of the country: New Delhi, Hyderabad,
and Vizag. The code name of the project is Advanced Technology
Vessel (ATV). So far, the program has been under-financed and moving up
too slowly, but since India performed a series of nuclear tests, it enjoys
a growing interest and Indian military have succeeded in getting the 15%
increase in the defense budget for 1998-1999. Today, it totals 412 billion
rupees or $10 billion. Such tremendous financial support of the Indian
military program has resulted in the beginning of a new series of five
nuclear submarines at national shipyards, two of which will be launched
already in 2004.
- The Indian nuclear powered attack submarine has about 4,000-ton displacement
and a single-shaft nuclear power plant of Indian origin. In due time,
India bought from Canada the license for production of nuclear reactors,
and reportedly it can be used for manufacturing nuclear power plants for
submarines. Apparently, the rest submarine characteristics will be similar
to 670 series, which allows to predict specifications of the weapons
systems to be used. If we assume that so far India has no indigenous anti-ship
cruise missiles and the submarine is being built with participation of
a Russian design office as a consultant, all major weapons systems may
be of Russian origin.
- Nowadays, the government-owned company Rosvooruzheniye exports
a number of sea-based cruise missiles. The first in the list is the 3M-80
Moskit anti-ship supersonic cruise missile (SS-N-22 Sunburn) being
sold only as the armament for Sovremenny type destroyers of 956
series, which can be used only on the surface. The second item is
the Kh-35 (SS-N-25) anti-ship subsonic cruise missile (similar to American
Harpoon cruise missile), meant to be used with small guided missile boats.
The third item is already mentioned Biryuza anti-ship cruise missile;
still, due to its short range, it is considered as a submarine self-defense
weapon rather than an attack missile.
- In theory, to gain the highest efficiency from the use of anti-ship
cruise missiles meaning the best attack results and effective penetration
through the air defense system of a modern surface ship, it is necessary
to launch at least eight missiles simultaneously. In a submarine modification,
Biryuza missile system has only two launchers.
- Therefore, the most probable missile for the Indian submarine would
be the actively promoted at all international exhibitions Yahont anti-ship
cruise missile designed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya, the above-mentioned
manufacturer of all major Russian sea-based anti-ship cruise missiles.
Yahont meets all principal requirements to anti-ship missiles of the fourth
generation: low weight and dimensions (8 missiles can be placed in the
hull of a slightly modernized Amur-class submarine, or it can replace
four P-15 Termit (SS-N-2a Styx) anti-ship cruise missiles on boats of
205 series), uses the Stealth technology, has supersonic flight
speed and a completely independent guidance system based on the fire-and-forget
- Yahont is an operational missile designed for hitting complex sea-based
and inshore targets. A ship armed with Yahont missiles can carry out combat
operations against single middle class ships (e.g. destroyers) or carrier
battle groups of the enemy.
- The flight speed of Yahont missile is 2.5 Mach number (similar to
Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) missile), and the range is about 300 km (or 120
km at altitudes 5 to 15 m). A regular midcourse phase of the flight occurs
at 15 km.
- Yahont is aimed by an inertial guidance system based on preset target
location data. At a pre-calculated flight point (25-80 km), a brief turn-on
of the homing scanner occurs, resulting in exact determination of target
location. Next time, the homing system turns on when the missile leaves
the radio horizon and loses its altitude to 5-15 m, i.e. a few seconds
before hitting the target.
- Missile designers assume that the enemy would detect the launch of
the missile at the distance of 300 km and take measures to destroy it.
However, being resistant to jamming, having the flight velocity of 750
m/s and making complex maneuvers during flight, Yahont cruise missile
shall anyway reach the target. There are no effective means of defense
against this Russian missile in naval forces of the world.
- It is not the high speed or jamming protection that make Yahont the
advanced weapon system. Its major advantage, not too much advertised by
NPO Mashinostroyeniya representatives, is the guidance system which
has accumulated all NPO experience in developing electronic systems of
artificial intelligence, enabling to fight against single warships (one
missile - one ship) or a group of ships (a flock against a
group). It is salvo launching that shows all unsurpassed tactical capabilities
of the Russian weapon.
- The missiles allocate and range targets by their importance and choose
the attack implementation plan. The independent control system keeps in
memory not only the electronic counter- and countercountermeasures (ECM
and ECCM) data, but also the methods of evading the fire of enemy's air
defense systems. Having destroyed the main target in a group of ships,
the missiles left attack other ships of the group, eliminating the possibility
of using two missiles on one target.
- Nuclear powered submarines being built at Indian shipyards allegedly
resemble by their body outlines the Russian fourth generation submarine
Severodvinsk designed by Rubin design office in St. Petersburg.
This vessel is being constructed for the Russian Navy at Severny machine-building
plant in Severodvinsk.
- The same plant is now busy with repairing two Indian diesel-powered
Kilo-class submarines. Certainly, one can't be sure that these
facts are somehow correlated, but if we assume that they are, then India
is presumably prepared to acquire or already has acquired technical documentation
for building ships like those designed by Rubin. In that case,
India has to purchase also the Yahont anti-ship cruise missiles, designed
specifically for Severodvinsk type nuclear submarines.
- The presence of nuclear powered submarine of the fourth generation
equipped with Yahont cruise missiles in the Indian Navy would enormously
raise its technical capabilities. Neither country in the region would
have so powerful and well-armed warships. China being a most likely rival
of New Delhi in the arms and economic race, even having Sovremenny
type destroyers with 8 Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles (SS-N-22 Sunburn),
aircraft carriers and diesel powered Kilo-class submarines in its
navy forces, could not compete with the Indian Navy.
- After India has informally joined the nuclear club,
it strives for possessing not only tactical nuclear weapons jeopardizing
interests of Pakistan and China. Military experts assume that the wish
to purchase nuclear powered attack submarine is caused by the Indian desire
to represent real power in the political dialogue with the USA. Having
warships with unlimited range armed with powerful missile weapons capable
of carrying nuclear warheads, the Indian Navy will play an important role
over the world's sea-lanes.
- Thirty years of Russian-Indian military and technical cooperation
have determined the process of weapons systems development of our Asian
partner. Military experts emphasize that the Indian military step by step
repeat all development stages of the Russian Armed Forces. If we follow
this logic, then we should remember that the idea of using nuclear powered
submarines with cruise missiles in the Russian Navy has always been linked
with their number, i.e. there should be enough submarines to counteract
each enemy's carrier battle group. The Soviet Union had to build about
20 ships to provide for efficient deterrence of US carrier battle groups.
But even for the USSR building nuclear submarines one by one, getting
of two nuclear submarines with cruise missiles on board used to cost more
than one aircraft carrier of Admiral Kuznetsov type. In this connection,
questionable is the adequate financing of ambitious Indian naval projects.
- Another important issue in the task of deterring the US Navy has always
been the fact that any sea target is mobile and can easily change its
position. Due to this, the USSR had to deploy a large-scale satellite system
for sea observation and target location, because successful use of anti-ship
cruise missiles assumes having real-rime target data. Only in that case
the missile weapon becomes really efficient. India has no space segment,
yet strives for its creation. Should this happen, Indian nuclear submarines
would become a political pressure instrument, as New Delhi dreams. So
far it is only the first trial of strength in developing an ideal carrier
for nuclear weapons, equally irritating all members of the nuclear
- According to information available to our experts, interested in purchasing
Russian nuclear submarines are other countries besides India, like China,
Brazil and South Korea (in the last case, the USA will probably block
this contract). Should these agreements be signed and approved at the higher
political level, they would be implemented by the two major submarine
design offices of Russia, i.e. Rubin and Lazurit.
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