When India’s Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu visited the Naval Science and Technology Laboratory, he formally handed over the “Sahayak”, a new air-droppable container with a 50-kg payload that would enable the Indian Navy to supply operations within a 2000-km range from the Indian coastline. Before the official press conference, he, along with his entourage, was taken on a tour of the high-tech facility.
When the photos were released on Twitter, the Vice President of India unknowingly revealed the existence of one of the most powerful weapons systems currently being developed, the S5-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. Whether it was done on purpose remains a question, but this so-called ‘leak’ seems to be incredibly well-timed, especially since Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement that India will most probably discard it’s “No First Use” policy if pushed hard enough.
In 2014, the Indian Navy received a rude shock when a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered submarine was detected in the Indian Ocean. In response, India test-fired a dummy B-5 missile from the INS Arihant, the newest nuclear submarine to be inducted into the Indian Navy. In 2016, the Arihant was commissioned. And then, in 2018, the INS Arighat, the second Arihant-class submarine began sea trials, as part of the Advanced Technology Vessel project.
Now, reports have surfaced of the new, larger, much more powerful S5-class nuclear submarine, which will be equipped with up to 12 K5 ICBMs with multiple independent re-entry-type nuclear or conventional warheads.
Well, here’s what we do know about the S5 class submarine:
1. It will be a successor to the INS Aridhaman, an enlarged version of the INS Arihant
2. The class will be populated by 3 units in the beginning, with another 3 planned over the next decade (6 separate submarines)
3. Each one will weigh about 13,500 tonnes
4. It will be equipped with submarine-launched ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and torpedoes
5. The subs will be built as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicle project, with an overall cost of almost INR 90,000 crores, making it one of the costliest defense programs to date
6. Bhabha Atomic Research Center will be building the nuclear power plants for the S5 subs
7. The project work will be carried out at New Delhi, with the hull being built at Gujarat, missile R&D at Hyderabad, while the nuclear reactor will be built in Tamil Nadu.
8. The final assembly will be done at Vishakhapatnam
9. The submarine will enter service by 2030
10. The S5 SSBNs will carry 12–16 K-6 MIRV submarine-launched ballistic missiles with a range of 8000 km and a 2–3 tonnes of explosive payload
11. These missiles will have three stages of propulsion, all of which use solid fuel
12. The K-6 missiles are intended to be 2.5 meters wide and 12 meters tall
13. The MIRV missiles will have 3–6 warheads that can be navigated independently
14. These missiles are smaller than the K-15 Sagarika mounted in the INS Arihant, although with more than double the range
15. As seen in the image leaked on Twitter, the missiles will be carried in a hump behind the sail
16. The 83-mega watt pressurized water nuclear reactor used in the Arihant will be upgraded, or a twin-reactor setup will be used to provide the planned power output of 190 mW
17. The submarine will most likely be propelled by a ducted pump jet propulsor which emits less noise and is thus more difficult to detect via sonar
18. The steam turbine is to be linked to one single shaft to improve mechanical efficiency and reduce the number of working parts
19. A new material for the hull is being developed by the Mishra Dhatu Nigam, and this will be able to withstand the tremendous amounts of pressure and with anti-sonar properties key to the S5’s performance
20. The mast, as seen in the tweet, is a little shorter than that of the INS Arihant and also has a diving rudder
21. The hydroplane, or the fin-like structure, is not placed on the mast but is flush with the rest of the body
22. The hump, in the scale model, is where the missile silos will most likely be placed
23. The speed will be around 25 knots submerged and 15 knots when surfaced
24. The S5 will be housed in a submarine pen at Rambilli, 50km south of Vishakhapatnam
25. This base, called the INS Varsha, will be home to all nuclear submarines (ballistic and attack) and nuclear-powered ships
26. It will have underground pens to hide their assets from drones and satellites
27. The submarine can be concealed the moment it travels a distance of 2 nautical miles from land and can achieve diving depth after sailing another 80 nautical miles
28. Each S5 will take 8 years to build
29. A minimum of 4 S5s will have to be built to ensure presence both in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean
30. The S5 is reported to be similar to the American Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines
Along with the S5, the INS Varsha, the heavily fortified submarine pen, is a very closely guarded secret. What is not a secret, though, is the fact that the Navy has finally gotten around to beefing up its submarine fleet. Contrary to what others have done, the Navy is focusing more on SSBNs, instead of diesel-electric attack submarines. The message to China is very clear.