Indian Navy Conducts SLBM Test From Lone SSBN, Showcases Growing Capability Of Western Fleet

India’s lone operational SSBN, INS Arihant, carried out a successful launch of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) on October 14, 2022. The missile was tested to a predetermined range and impacted the target area in the Bay of Bengal with very high accuracy, a press release by the Indian MoD stated. The test was conducted in a week of hectic activities by the Navy.

All operational and technological parameters of the unnamed weapon system have been validated. While the MoD did not reveal the name of the missile, area warnings active on the day shows that the firing range was less than 750km in length. This suggests the test was likely that of the K-15 SLBM. This is the first publicised test of an SLBM from Arihant. The submarine had conducted its first deterrence patrol in 2018.

The press release further stated:

“The successful user training launch of the SLBM by INS Arihant is significant to prove crew competency and validate the SSBN programme, a key element of India’s nuclear deterrence capability. A robust, survivable and assured retaliatory capability is in keeping with India’s policy to have ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence‘ that underpins its ‘No First Use’ commitment.”

INS Arihant is designed to carry 12 K-15 missiles or 4 K-4 SLBMs. The K-15 has a range of over 750km while the K-4 has a range of about 3000km. The K-5 SLBM with a range of over 5000km is also being developed. Three larger SSBNs based on Arihant are being readied. A larger class of submarines, dubbed S-5 class, are being developed. 

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy’s fourth Kalvari class Scorpene submarine INS Vela returned to its base port on October 15 after a 8.5 month long deployment. The addition of an air independent propulsion (AIP) system, expected during its refit, would enable the Navy to prolong such deployments. The Navy has been facing a drastic shortage of submarines as planned induction programs are delayed.

The Western Fleet of the Indian Navy also conducted a readiness exercise in which the recently inducted INS Vikrant aircraft carrier participated. On her return trip after the exercise, Vikrant was caught on satellite imagery along with INS Vikramaditya, providing the first image with both of India’s currently operational carriers. Vikramaditya has been docked at Karwar since late 2020.

Elsewhere on October 13, the Indian Navy landed a Do-228 aircraft on Agatti island, the lone airstrip in the Lakshadweep archipelago, off India’s west coast. While India has substantial military presence in the eastern Andaman and Nicobar islands, the smaller Lakshadweep islands had been relatively underdeveloped. The navy is now developing facilities to berth ships and land bigger aircraft on the archipelago.