Sea Based Deterrence and Indian Security

Commander Vijay Sakhuja, Research Fellow


Submarines at sea are considered less vulnerable to detection due to their geographical and technical attributes. Accordingly, missiles on submarines offer the most survivable strategic nuclear force available to national decision-makers. The current worldwide trends in deployment of strategic weapons further reinforce this thinking. Indian nuclear scientists, strategists and naval planners have watched with great care the development of nuclear submarines by several navies and the corresponding changes in maritime strategy. The Indian Nuclear Doctrine notes that India's strategic interests require an effective and credible nuclear deterrent with adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail. The nuclear submarines, therefore, provide the desired 'credibility and survivability' of nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had deployed a substantial proportion of their nuclear weaponry on board strategic submarines to perform the classical role of deterrence. The warfighting concepts aimed at anti-submarine warfare, attack on strategic targets at sea /land and the important role of intelligence gathering. Both sides had developed a highly capable and lethal sub-surface strategic force to undertake the above missions. Consequently, their navies conducted aggressive monitoring and tracking of each other's forces. On occasions they were dangerously close to each other and were involved in accidents.

Although the Cold War is over, the sea is the only medium where strategic nuclear operations continue as they did earlier. Both the US and Russia plan to put 50 per cent of their deployable strategic weapons at sea, France nearly 80 per cent, and Britain has its entire nuclear arsenal on submarines. It is only China which has a large proportion of nuclear weapons on land, but is steadily modernising the sea based dimension of its strategic triad. Sea based nuclear forces are, therefore, becoming more prominent in the strategic calculations of nuclear weapon planners.

This paper examines the worldwide trends in deployment of strategic weapons and the relevance of strategic submarines in the naval doctrine of nuclear capable navies. It highlights the importance of nuclear-propelled ballistic missile bearing submarines (SSBNs) in the context of the Indian Nuclear Doctrine. It also reviews the Indian nuclear submarine programme and argues for development of strategic submarines to provide the desired survivable second strike for India.

Trends in Deployment of Nuclear Weapons

United States

The US Navy is the world's largest nuclear powered and armed navy of the world. During the Cold War these forces had established themselves as a potent and a reliable nuclear deterrent force and served as the "ultimate insurance policy".1 The US SSBNs and nuclear submarines (SSNs) patrolled, shadowed, trailed and tracked Soviet strategic submarines as part of their forward deployment strategy. General Colin Powell, US Army, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a ceremony in April 1992 marking the completion of the 3000th deterrence patrol had remarked " ...the Cold War was won especially by .. America's ' Blue and Gold' crew manning America's nuclear powered ballistic missile fleet...... no one has done more to prevent conflict, no one has made a greater sacrifice for the cause of peace than....America's proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among all our heroes of the Cold War".2

Although the Cold War is over, nuclear weapons continue to serve as an important source of deterrence. According to the United States National Military Strategy, there still remain serious threats to the US national security including regional dangers, asymmetric challenges and trans-national threats. Consequently, the current strategic forces mission reflects a continuity with the past. 3 The Nuclear Posture Review and the Quadrennial Defence Review have stressed the need to maintain the strategic triad of land based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic bombers and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).4 The US believes that the triad provides the desired deterrence and reduces the risk of war.

The SSBNs are an important component of the US strategic triad and carry a large proportion of the strategic weaponry. The submarines are postured to provide an assured response capability to inflict unacceptable damage to the potential enemy. During the Cold War, the US Navy's 34 SSBNs carried about 45 per cent of the total 12,000 nuclear warheads.5 There appears to be a change in the submarine warfighting concepts and doctrines. The earlier role of deterrence of a global war and anti- submarine warfare operations has changed and now the US submarines are deployed for multi-mission roles. The intelligence gathering role has shifted from strategic to tactical reconnaissance and similarly the submarines are no longer completely silent, but exchange information covertly with the US forces.6 Notwithstanding this change in the naval nuclear doctrine, the strategic sub-surface force still carries about 50 per cent of the US strategic weapons.

Besides performing the classical role of deterrence, the US SSBNs have been engaged in other roles too. The US Navy has employed these boats for evacuation of US and foreign nationals from regions of conflict and crisis.7 These vessels can also host Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles with conventional warheads for long range precision strikes (Gulf War 1991, attack on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan) against shore targets. The combination of capability, precision strikes, surveillance/reconnaissance and an ability to undertake special operations all add up to give strategic submarines an edge over other means of delivery. These vessels offer flexibility, non-provocative presence (when submerged) and the desired deterrence. An SSBN, therefore, discounts air superiority and the fear of loss of aircraft and airmen.8 Accordingly, the SSBNs are gradually becoming the principle component of the future US strategic triad. Land based bombers and ICBMs are being reduced and MIRV capability will be the forte of SSBNs.


Post-World War II, Britain decided to develop a nuclear and a thermo-nuclear bomb.9 The 1947 Defence Policy Committee estimated a requirement of one thousand bombs based on the available nuclear stockpile. It was also decided that Britain needed a fleet of strategic aircraft capable of delivering the nuclear weapon into Soviet territory. Accordingly, work began on the development of the V Bomber. It took thirteen years to operationalise the bomber fleet and the Valiants were finally handed over to the Royal Air Force in 1956.10

In 1954, Britain entered into a joint agreement with the United States to develop Blue Streak intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), based on the American Atlas missile, with a range of 2,000 km.11 The missile achieved operational status in 1965. During this period, the Soviet Union had conducted its first nuclear test (August 1947) and by 1954 it had developed ICBMs to strike targets as far as UK. Under the Anglo-American Agreement of 1957-58, 60 US Thor (1,500 miles range with one megaton bomb) missiles were positioned in the UK.12 These were deployed in unhardened sites and were inherently slow by way of reaction time.13 Despite these shortcomings, these developments provided Britain some strategic deterrence against the Soviet Union. But there always remained doubts about the second strike capability.

The British nuclear capability reached its peak only in 1962 during the Cuban Crisis. There were 170 V- Bombers and 60 Thor IRBBs in Britain's inventory.14 But it declined due to withdrawal of the US Thor missile and the vulnerability of the V Bomber to penetrate Soviet defences. It was generally believed that the Soviet ICBMs had the capability to challenge the British deterrent on the ground itself. In response, in 1962, Britain decided to procure four Polaris missile submarines.15 The first Polaris equipped boat reached operational status in 1968 and the other three became operational by 1972. Fears that Lockheed, the manufacturers of the Polaris, would shut down production line after the US had decided to replace the Polaris, led to a decision to replace the missile with the Trident.16 By the 1980s, the Trident (range 6,000 km with 100 kiloton weapon) was in place and continued till the end of the Cold War.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a reduction in Britain's nuclear forces. This is also linked to the 1991 US decision to reduce substantially nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. Since 1992, Britain has taken a number of steps to withdraw a wide variety of nuclear weaponry. These include the nuclear Lance missiles, artillery, WE-177 gravity bombs and nuclear weapons from Royal Navy ships.17 The 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) further reduced the British nuclear arsenal. As per the SDR, the four Trident boats HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance would host the entire British nuclear deterrent. Each of these submarines will carry 48 warheads and the Royal Navy will be able to maintain at least two boats on patrol at any time.18


France has shown a remarkable consistency with its nuclear policy during the last four decades. Successive governments have based their defence policies on an enduring trans-Atlantic defence alliance. Their foreign policy objectives have aimed at "independence" and "influence".19 While the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was welcomed, the French leadership remained doubtful of the validity of the Anglo-Saxon military guarantee for Europe. France entered the nuclear club late but has pursued an independent nuclear policy. Against this background it is not surprising that Paris did not permit Washington to position any nuclear weapons on its soil. In a way it avoided US nuclear hegemony. Further, the French leadership remained resolute on their independent nuclear thought and did not consider it necessary to integrate France's nuclear policy with that of others. France remained "reluctant to make unambiguous threats to use its strategic weapons other than in the direct defence of its own territory". All along it has maintained "a declared policy of threatening the first use of nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack" on its territory.20

It is not surprising then that the French differed with the US and Britain in the field of development of nuclear weapon systems. They have followed a long, tardy, expensive yet a reliable nuclear weapons programme aimed at a strategic triad. The development of the triad began in 1964 with a total reliance on Mirage IV bombers. In a span of just four years, 62 Mirage IV bombers were delivered to the French Air Force.21 These aircraft had a range of 3,200 km and could be fuelled in the air by US built KC-135 tanker aircraft. They could deliver a single 70 kiloton gravity bomb. Eighteen advanced Mirage IV fitted with medium range air-to-surface missiles (range excess of 100 km) could carry a warhead in the 100 to 300 kiloton range. The French strategists were well aware of the vulnerability of aircraft and mid-air refuelling tankers. They were convinced that these aircraft were not capable of providing credible deterrence. In 1964, France began developing land based IRBMs. It was decided to build 54 silos, but by 1971-72, only 18 had been built.22 The plan to build the balance was shelved. As with the bombers, land based IRBMs were believed to be vulnerable.

In 1971, the first of the six missile launching submarines (Le Redoubtable) gained operational status. By 1973, the second submarine Le Terrible was operational.23 These boats were fitted with 16 M-1 ballistic missiles with a range of 2,500 km and could carry 500 kiloton bombs. By the time the third submarine Le Foudroyant joined service in 1974, M-2 ballistic missiles with a range of 3,000 km were in use.24 Interestingly, France continued to modernise its SLBM and by 1985, the sixth submarine capable of carrying M-4 ballistic missiles with a range of 5,000 km and six independently targetable 150 kiloton warheads was operational.25

In 1996, France decided to decommission its land based missiles.26 The bomber force has continued. The aging Mirage IV have been replaced by 60 Mirage 2000 N. The SSBN force remains quite visible and the new Le Triomphant class has achieved operational status. These boats will be upgraded to carry M-4, M-45 and M-51 missiles with range over 6,000 km and capable of carrying 6 MIRVed warheads with a yield of 150 kiloton.27 The real power of the French nuclear deterrent lies in the SSBN force.


Nuclear submarines in Soviet strategic thinking emerged only as a response to the US development of Nautilus in 1954. Although work on nuclear propulsion reactors began in the early 1950s, it reached fruition only in 1958. The regular line production of nuclear attack submarines began in 1959.28 From the 1950s through the 1990s, Soviet Union/Russia built about 250 nuclear submarines including 100 SSBNs. Fleet Admiral Felix Gromov, commander-in-chief, Russian Navy, was quoted as saying " The Navy's main task is deterrence, nuclear deterrence, which it manages to carry out despite obvious difficulties".29

Although the leadership has had to make some hard decisions to decommission SSBNs due to economic constraints, Russia continues to depend heavily on its sea based deterrent. Besides the arms control agreements have further pushed a large proportion of nuclear weapons on board the submarines. In 1991, the Soviet Union signed the START I Treaty. At that time, there were more than 10,000 nuclear warheads deployed in the Soviet Union. Of these, 62 per cent were land based, 20 per cent sea based, and 12 per cent air based. As per START I, the Russians were to remove and destroy obsolete weapons from Russia as well as from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.30 The 1994 START II Treaty stipulated a further reduction of nuclear warheads in the inventory to a level of 3,000 to 3,500 warheads by 2003. The Russian Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of the Armed Forces have announced that in the event of ratification of START II, Russian rocket forces would comprise 800 to 900 single warhead missiles and 1,700 to 1,750 warheads on sea based strategic forces.31 As regards strategic aviation, the warheads would be limited to about 800 (i.e. the present level) since further production of strategic aircraft has been stopped in Russia. 32 Given these trends, Russia may have to convert de facto from a classical triad to a diad. This would automatically shift the centre of gravity of Russian strategic forces to the sea.

Today Russia has a large submarine force of about 72 vessels comprising SSBNs, SSGNs, SSNs and conventional submarines (SS).33 Twenty five per cent of these are SSBNs and form the core of the Russian strategic force. Their numbers are fast declining due to lack of financial resources for maintenance and upkeep. In recent times , their readiness has also remained suspect. Notwithstanding these developments, the Russian strategic submarine force occupies an important position in the strategic triad. For Russia, SSBNs offer the most flexible and least vulnerable platform to support their nuclear strategy. Despite the downsizing of the SSBN force, newer generation SSBNs are being built( Borey SSBN with 12 SS-NX-28).34 The Russian Navy's SSBNs, SSGNs and SSNs continue to serve as the frontline deterrence force and continue to be deployed on such missions.


In October 1964, China conducted its first nuclear test and by 1966 it had successfully test fired its first missile. The Chinese were conversant with the concept of strategic triad. Much of this thought had come about from the Soviet Union which was instrumental in laying down the foundation of the Chinese nuclear weapons programme. The abrupt withdrawal of Soviet assistance in the late 1950s was a major setback to the Chinese nuclear ambitions, but the leadership was convinced that the nuclear weapons were the ultimate guarantor of power. All along the Chinese leadership has supported the country's nuclear ambitions and has argued that nuclear weapons serve as a currency of power. Notwithstanding the late evolution of nuclear doctrine, the leadership has always understood the military value of nuclear weapons.

Since its inception, the Chinese nuclear forces have developed themselves into a potent and a survivable force. They collectively possess 350-400 warheads.35 Like the Soviets, the Chinese have relied on a land based silo/mobile missile force. A variety of missiles have been developed and today China can boast of missile ranges of over 12,000 km. Within the strategic triad, the air delivery platforms are the weakest. The current inventory includes 100 H5 and H6 bombers. The H6 has a range of about 3,000 km, but its capability to penetrate the modern air defence system remains suspect. The H7 bomber programme is currently underway and would be able to overcome the weaknesses of the H6 bombers.

The third leg of the Chinese strategic triad is being given greater attention. Admiral Zhang Lianzhong, the former chief of the navy, was quoted as saying, "The development of the nuclear powered submarine is the chief objective of this country".36 Nuclear powered submarines are an important component of China's status as a major regional power and play a crucial role in Chinese defence strategy. The single Xia class SSBN is the only ballistic missile submarine in the Chinese naval inventory. SSBNs are seen as the only survivable nuclear retaliatory force. Although the Xia class has its own operational/technical deficiencies, the Chinese are busy developing another SSBN designated as Project 094. Russian technology is being obtained to make the project a success.37 Important features of this project include quieting technology, improved sensors and a reliable propulsion system. More importantly, the SSBN will be capable of hosting 16 newly designed JL 2 SLBMs with a range of over 10,000 km. It is believed that the Chinese second strike will be centred around the Project 094 boats. By some estimates, China will build at least three such submarines.38

There appears to be a general consensus among strategic planners in Beijing that a considerable portion of the Chinese deterrent should go to the sea based dimension of the strategic triad. Further, if China builds four to six SSBNs of Project 094, it would be able to keep at least two submarines at sea at any time to provide the desired deterrence. China is also developing MIRV capability and if this is provided to the JL 2, it would further contribute to the deterrent value of the sea leg of the Chinese strategic triad.

SSBNs and Nuclear Warfighting

The SSBNs possess formidable capabilities that offer national decision-makers multiple choices. These platforms are considered the most survivable strategic nuclear force and carry as many or more nuclear warheads as ICBMs and bombers. Besides, there are several inherent attributes that make them a natural choice for hosting strategic weaponry. These include:39

(a) Responsiveness. The SSBNs are an all weather platform and, therefore, provide prompt response to any threat that challenges national interests or security. Besides, they are not subject to preemptive strike and are, therefore, survivable. They are also free from the 'use them or lose them' syndrome and thus offer credible assured response deterrent.

(b) Flexibility. The relative high stealth nature of the SSBN offers tremendous flexibility for its deployment. It can move undetected to the desired launch area. Its high underwater speed helps it to reach the launch area in the least possible time and, therefore, supports quick redeployment. More importantly, it can choose the point of launch, is not subject to overflight considerations and can attack any target anywhere in the world.

(c) Survivability. There are several tasks involved in destroying an enemy submarine-detection, classification, localisation to a small area and destruction. Detection alone cannot provide all the information about the target. The target is localised to a small area before prosecuting it with weapons. The gap between the time of detection to the time the weapon is launched on the target is sufficient for the submarine to make a quick getaway from the area to a safe haven.

(d) Endurance. The ability to stay under water over long periods is one of the most important attributes of an SSBN / SSN. These vessels are self- contained and can stay under water for long duration without logistic support.

(e) Connectivity. Acoustic energy is the most suitable source for underwater communications. Electro-magnetic waves are attuned to water and are easily absorbed by water but very low frequency (VLF) and extra low frequency (ELF) are able to offer effective, reliable, robust and survivable communication between shore/command platform and the submarine. The SSBNs can remain silent and still maintain contact with command ashore or at sea.

(f) Readiness. The SSBN crew are trained physically, mentally and psychologically to perform long duration underwater operations. They are able to do the underwater tasks with utmost zeal and perfection/precision. Besides, the SSBNs have the capability to be alert and ready at all times to launch weapons or shift to another area of deployment.

Anti-SSBN Warfare: Strategic Considerations

It is important to locate strategic anti-submarine warfare in the context of 'survivability'. This poses the question: Can SSBNs survive a preemptive nuclear strike? The requirements for a sudden, rapid and totally disarming strike are very stringent. The prerequisite for total destruction of all enemy submarines is that the position, course and speed of all enemy submarines is known to the national command centre. This is so because the SSBNs would never be stationary and there is a time gap between the launch of weapon and the time it reaches the target. Secondly, such a strike would have to be undertaken by all possible resources (land based missiles and aircraft equipped with underwater weapons and own SSBNs/SSNs) available to the national command. Thirdly, the entire operation must be carried out with total secrecy and precision. Last, but not the least, the national command and control system must be fully geared up to undertake coordinated strikes and be in full control of all attacking forces. Given these stringent conditions, at least some SSBNs would still survive a preemptive strike. Therefore, a complete disarming strike against enemy SSBNs becomes implausible. This is not the case with land and air based nuclear weapons.

The SSBNs offer the most reliable second strike capability. This in itself provides the desired deterrence. The reluctance of each side to launch nuclear weapons in a crisis becomes more plausible. It is clear to both sides that at least some SSBNs would survive a total disarming strike and the thought of retaliatory strike prevents such an adventure. As long as it is believed that some of the enemy's forces are invulnerable, some measure of strategic stability will be preserved.

Anti-SSBN Warfare: Tactical Considerations

There exist several peculiar characteristics of tactical anti-submarine warfare. As noted earlier, an anti-submarine operation involves four specific steps. i.e. detection, classification, localisation to a small area and final destruction. These steps are generally common to both SSBNs/SSNs and conventional submarines. In a majority of circumstances, an SSBN will be required to prosecute distant targets. It is risky to order an SSBN to attack targets at short distance since it would only facilitate an early response from the enemy's anti submarine forces. Therefore in most cases the firing distances are long and correspondingly the flight time of the missile is more.

When a missile is fired from an SSBN, it leaves the tube at great speed and emits a powerful acoustic signal. Besides it also leaves behind non-acoustic signals such as vapour trail from its exhaust and a radar reflecting surface. After the missile breaks the water surface , the heat from the exhaust can be picked up by anti- submarine aircraft or other space based detection systems. The submarine is highly vulnerable if it is to fire a salvo or more than two missiles in sequence. Successive launches are made in the shortest possible time to prevent localisation by the enemy.

Finally, after the SSBN has fired its SLBM, it naturally makes a quick getaway, making detection very difficult. Given that the detection information has been passed on to the anti-submarine forces , there still remains yet another formidable task of localising the firing submarine. Even if initial detection was made using long range sensors, localising/pinpointing the target is still difficult. Only after accurate identification and precise target data, would the submarine be attacked. But there still remains uncertainty regarding whether the submarine was destroyed or not because it (submarine) would have conducted such manoeuvres or discharged decoys to take it to safety.

India and Nuclear Submarining

Indian nuclear scientists, strategists and naval planners have watched with great care and enthusiasm the development of nuclear submarines by several navies. It was in the late 1970s that serious thought was given to the development of nuclear propelled submarines. The project was first conceived by Dr Rajaramanna, the former chairman of Bhaba Atomic Research Centre ( BARC ) Bombay. Indian naval officers and BARC scientists worked together to develop plans to build a nuclear reactor for submarines.40

Importantly, by 1987, India began to negotiate with the Soviet Union for the lease of a nuclear submarine. In January 1988, a 670 A Skat series (Charlie class by NATO classification) nuclear submarine was acquired by the Indian Navy from the Soviet Union on lease. The vessel was commissioned as INS Chakra and was based at Vishakhapatnam. This 4,800 ton vessel was fitted with eight Ameist (SS-N-7 Starbright) anti-ship missiles with a range of 120 km, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Eventually, "the Skat became not only the training ground for the Indian naval personnel, but a design laboratory for developing and testing indigenous nuclear submarine technology". On expiry of the lease period in 1991, INS Chakra was returned to Russia and reportedly it was subsequently decommissioned. These efforts resulted in Indian nuclear submarine experts.41

Advance Technology Vessels (ATV)

The indigenous nuclear submarine programme, designated as advance technology vessels (ATV), has been under way for almost two decades. It has made some progress, though unsatisfactory. The ATV submarine is expected to be of 4,000 ton displacement, and four to five such vessels are to be built.42 According to the Russian Defence Ministry's official newspaper, Krasnaya Zevezda, Russia is assisting India in building a nuclear submarine. The vessel is a copy of the new Russian Severodvinsk class attack submarine, currently under construction in Severodvinsk. It will be outfitted with a PWR reactor of 190 MW output.43 According to Jane's Defence Weekly, the PWR will use 20 per cent enriched uranium, the same as used in second generation Russian submarines.44 There are reports to suggest that the reactor is being developed at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay with its assembly likely to be done at Kalpakkam, Chennai.45 There are also other reports to indicate that India is planning to lease a Russian SSN to help bolster the development of the ATV.46 As regards the weapons, the ATV vessel is expected to host either the Yahont anti-ship cruise missile (designed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya) with a range of 300 km or the indigenous Sagarika.47

Indian Nuclear Doctrine and Nuclear Submarines

Para 2.1 of the Indian Nuclear Doctrine (IND) notes that "India's strategic interests require effective credible nuclear deterrent and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail". Further, the IND (para 4.1 to 4.3) states that "credibility", "effectiveness" and "survivability" are the cardinal principles under which India's nuclear deterrent will function. Therefore, any nuclear strike on India shall result in a retaliatory strike to inflict unacceptable damage on the would be attacker. In order to achieve the desired response, India must possess a credible and survivable nuclear deterrent. Given these specific conditions of "requirements and responses", the SSBNs fit the bill instantaneously. As noted earlier, the SSBNs possess inherent attributes of "responsiveness", "flexibility", "survivability", "endurance", "connectivity" and "endurance" that offer national decision-makers the most credible and reliable nuclear deterrent in their arsenal.

There are several arguments to support the relevance of land based nuclear missiles in terms of cost, dispersal and some residual availability even after a first strike . It is true that the cost of building and operating a nuclear ballistic missile submarine as compared to the land based missile system is indeed quite high. But there is a tendency to forget the cost of development of the anti-missile defence shield to protect the strategic missiles. Although the mobile strategic missiles do enjoy dispersal attributes, this remains suspect. The mobile system has its own disadvantages. Firstly, the infrared signature of the mobile battery can be easily picked up by aircraft/satellites and thus their chances of detection remain very high. Secondly, a very highly developed and robust road infrastructure/ rail system is necessary to move the missile battery. Thirdly, these missiles batteries must be deployed in uninhabited/sparsely populated areas. Interestingly, these are some of the constraints that have forced strategic planners the world over to rethink deployment of mobile strategic missile batteries. As regards silos and aircraft, they continue to be easy targets.

This is not to suggest that SSBNs are an ideal platform available to national decision-makers . Their utility as a second strike platform does remain restricted to only a few SLBMs (normally 16-18) and reloads are not available at short notice. Secondly, the connectivity with national command centres has its own limitations. The would be attacker's choices, among others, include VLF centres on which the SSBNs rely for their connectivity. These are easy targets and can easily be knocked out using conventional weaponry. But if a network of such VLF stations is available, some of them will survive even after an attack, thereby providing the desired connectivity. Given these conditions a cost benefit analysis clearly points that SSBNs certainly enjoy a high degree of survivability and connectivity.

The Indian naval strategists and naval planners are convinced that acquisition of a nuclear submarine will provide the most reliable deterrence as also give the navy a true blue water status. They argue that no country having a nuclear capability should be without a nuclear submarine. The nuclear submarines not only act as a survivable nuclear deterrent but add to great power status.


A decade after the end of the Cold War , none of the nuclear weapons states has shown any signs of giving up its nuclear arsenal. Instead, these states are busy consolidating their nuclear forces and adjusting their nuclear strategies to the post-Cold War realities. Interestingly, the sea based forces are becoming increasingly popular in strategic calculations. The nuclear capable navies continue to shift their strategic nuclear arsenal to the sea based dimension of their respective strategic triad. As noted , some of them have permanently removed their strategic weapons from land and are consolidating the dyad.

The SSBNs offer a viable, robust and credible deterrence posture. It is true that national security goals, objectives, budgets and operational constraints need to be evaluated to fully justify the development of strategic submarines. The versatility of an SSBN leaves little choice before strategic planners but to concentrate on sea based deterrence. The ATV project has been delayed far too long and needs to be augmented financially. In the meantime, leasing a nuclear submarine from Russia would be a suitable alternative to cover the time lost as also to sharpen the skills achieved while operating INS Chakra.


1. See "The SSBN in National Security" at <>

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. See "Submarines Roles and Missions" at <>

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Robert H Patterson, Britain's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent (London: Frank Cass,1997),p.41.

10. Ibid., p.42.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.,p.44.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., p.69.

17. See "Western Europe Options for Nuclear Risk Reduction" at < .html>

18. Ibid.

19. Patterson, n.9, pp.135 -138.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., p.141.

22. Ibid., p.142.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid., p.143.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid., p.146.

28. See "Russia: Naval Nuclear Reactors Overview", at <>

29. See Worldwide Submarine Challenges, Office of Naval Intelligence, February 1997, p.9.

30. See "The Future of Russia's Nuclear Forces : Discussions and Arguments" at < http://www.>

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Jane's Fighting Ships 2000-01, p.552.

34. See Worldwide Submarine Challenges, Office of Naval Intelligence, February 1997, p.16.

35. See "World Nuclear Arsenal 1996" at <>

36. See Worldwide Submarine Challenges, Office of Naval Intelligence, February 1997, p.18.

37. Ibid., p.22.

38. Ibid., p.23.

39. See "The SSBN in National Security" at < 5/intlsecurity.html>

40. See "Need to Keep a High Priority on Indian Nuclear Submarine Project" at <>

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. See "Russia helps India build Nuclear Submarines" at <>

44. See "India's Nuclear Submarine will be no Blue Print of Russian Design" at <>

45. See "India's Nuclear Sub Still a Distant Dream" at <>

46. See "India Planning to Lease Russian SSN" at < html> and "Need to Keep a High Priority on Indian Nuclear Submarine Project" at <>

47. "Need to Keep a High Priority on Indian Nuclear Submarine Project" at <>