When submarine captains go to school to learn how to command a multi-billion-dollar vessel, surely one of the first lessons is “Make Sure All the Hatches Are Closed Before You Dive.” For whatever reason, when that lesson was learned by the captain of India’s first nuclear submarine, it was learned the hard way.
The INS Arihant is India’s first nuclear submarine. At a cost of $2.9 billion, the ballistic missile submarine was commissioned in October 2016. It is a modified Russian Akula-1 class attack sub, lengthened to hold twelve K-15 short-range nuclear missiles or four K-4 intermediate range nuclear missiles. The vessel is designed to be an instrument of retaliation in the event of a surprise first strike on Indian soil.
Arihant was the jewel in India’s navy for four months until a baffling error nearly brought the new ship to an early grave. In February 2017, Arihant was still in harbor and began to submerge. That’s when the crew discovered someone had failed to close a hatch in the aft of the vessel. Water rushed in and nearly sank the ship before the crew recovered control of the sub and limped back to port. The next ten months saw the pride of the navy sitting in a shipyard, undergoing massive repairs and clean up. According to Navy officials, in addition to the repair, many pipes had to be cut open and replaced. The pipes were replaced to make sure they had not been weakened from the corrosive sea water. Since they carry pressurized water coolant to and from the ship’s 83 megawatt nuclear reactor, this was a prudent move.
Government spokesmen assure the public that the newly-recommissioned Arihant is once again seaworthy and operational. We hope that it is also watertight.
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