India’s baby boomer

An Indian Charlie-class sub (via FAS) Passport has already had a lot of coverage of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (you can see my take here over at Danger Room), so I’d like to call attention to a development that has hitherto flown under the radar: India is readying its first domestically built nuclear ...

597719_071207_indiansub_05.jpg
597719_071207_indiansub_05.jpg

An Indian Charlie-class sub (via FAS)

Passport has already had a lot of coverage of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (you can see my take here over at Danger Room), so I'd like to call attention to a development that has hitherto flown under the radar: India is readying its first domestically built nuclear submarine for sea trials in 2009.

The sub, reportedly a modified version of the Soviet/Russian Charlie-II, has been code-named the Advanced Technology Vessel. While the Soviet Charlie II sub did not have the capability to carry nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, the Indian version reportedly will. (Though one source implies it may use cruise missiles instead.) Either way, the program is further evidence of India's accelerating military expansion. It should be noted, though, that the 2009 test date is a slight slip from revelations a few months ago, which said the sub would be tested next year.

An Indian Charlie-class sub (via FAS)

Passport has already had a lot of coverage of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (you can see my take here over at Danger Room), so I’d like to call attention to a development that has hitherto flown under the radar: India is readying its first domestically built nuclear submarine for sea trials in 2009.

The sub, reportedly a modified version of the Soviet/Russian Charlie-II, has been code-named the Advanced Technology Vessel. While the Soviet Charlie II sub did not have the capability to carry nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, the Indian version reportedly will. (Though one source implies it may use cruise missiles instead.) Either way, the program is further evidence of India’s accelerating military expansion. It should be noted, though, that the 2009 test date is a slight slip from revelations a few months ago, which said the sub would be tested next year.

India’s ostensible motive is to develop a secure “second-strike capability,” i.e. the ability to withstand a nuclear attack and still be able to hit back with nukes. Both India and Pakistan currently rely on a combination of bombers and short- to mid-range missiles for their nuclear delivery platforms, though India is more dependent on aircraft and Pakistan on missiles. A seafaring deterrent capability for India will provide a more secure force, but it is unlikely to make Pakistan more vulnerable to nuclear attack—the country’s lack of strategic depth already ensures its vulnerability. India will have an advantage in survivability, though. Submarines are the most secure type of nuclear delivery platform possible. China may also have reason to be concerned, given ongoing border disputes with India and the potential for further competition in the future.

The context in which the Indian navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, revealed the submarine also sheds light on the Indo-Russian defense relationship. India has only one aircraft carrier in its inventory — the INS Viraat — which is aging and operating well beyond its expected lifetime. India therefore ordered an aircraft carrier from Russia to be delivered in 2008, so as to prevent a gap in Indian naval capabilities. Unfortunately, the project is behind schedule and Russia has doubled the price tag already. As a result, Admiral Mehta called for an end to price negotiations with Russia on the carrier contract amid calls for the entire relationship to be reexamined. Given these difficulties, look for India to move for more indigenous capabilities — like its nuclear sub — as fast as possible in coming years.

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