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By Bulbul Singh

08 Apr 08. India’s most secretive project, the development of a nuclear submarine Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) is planned to be launched by April 2009. The nuclear missile will carry, submarine launched nuclear missiles, which are currently being developed with Israeli help by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The ATV will be ready for sea trials by April 2009, said DRDO sources and currently the nuclear reactor, which has been miniaturized, is being sealed in the ATV at India’s Vizag naval base; ATV will be inducted by 2010.

ATV will give India its third leg of the nuclear triad by acquiring underwater ability to launch nuclear vessels, and submarine-launched nuclear capable missiles.

Currently India has its two legs, land-based missiles and strike aircraft, for nuclear weapon delivery.

The sea-leg of the nuclear triad is best provided by ballistic missiles positioned on a nuclear submarine, because this leg is clearly the least vulnerable, and therefore, the most survivable, said an Indian defence ministry official.

Launched in 1974, the ATV project is an Indian classified project and is based on a design close to the Russian Charlie nuclear submarine taken on lease earlier by the Indian Navy. Over $500m has already been spent on the project and the DRDO has also tested, with Israeli help, the submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon last year. The submarine-launched ballistic missile, also dubbed as the K-15 missile, has a range of over 750 kilometres and has been tested from a specially designed submersible pontoon.

The vertically launched Sagarika cruise missile is capable of carrying up to a 1000kg warhead and is being developed by DRDO with Israeli assistance. The missile is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, under DRDO supervision.

Sagarika is 5.86 meters long, uses solid propellant and employs a strap-on navigational system augmented by GPS equipment, and has a circular error probability of 25 meters. Several DRDO laboratories are working on this project which includes, DRDL, Hyderabad; The Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad, Aerospace Systems Limited, Hyderabad; Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), Bangalore; Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) Bangalore and the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NOPL) in Kochi.
India plans to build three ATVs, the hull of the second submarine is already being built by the private sector defence major, Mumbai-based Larsen and Toubro (L&T).

In addition the Indian Navy has already contracted to take two additional nuclear submarines of the Akula class on lease from Russia. India’s nuclear submarines will operate from the new naval base, Karwar which is under construction and the operating naval base of Vizag. Another base on the east coast is being considered, to separate the nuclear capability from heavy civilian populated areas.

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