Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prowler Of The Deep

For at least a decade speculation has been rife on two major issues: India’s quest for acquiring a credible sea-based element of the country’s nuclear weapons triad; and the Indian Navy’s (IN) projected plans for acquiring on lease SSGNs of Russian origin. More often than not, it is the Russian mass media that has been more accurate in reporting key developments on these two issues, while its Indian counterpart has been engaging in speculations ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. What follows below is a detailed analysis of India’s continuing quest for acquiring a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for strategic nuclear deterrence.

ATV stands for Advanced Technology Vessel (carrying the hull codename P-4102), which will be a technology demonstrator displacing less than 7,000 tonnes dived and will NOT be an operational nuclear-powered submarine. It will be used for validating the ATV’s 90mW nuclear-powered propulsion system, the vessel’s structural integrity as well as the on-board mission sensors, combat management system (CMS), and integrated platform management/battle damage management system. The ATV will thus be used for validating various technologies and performance parameters for two types of fourth-generation operational nuclear-powered submarines that are being proposed for series production the following decade: three attack submarines (SSGN) each displacing 7,500 tonnes when dived, and a single SSBN displacing some 12,000 tonnes dived. The ATV, to be built with NQ-1, a derivative of HY-80 grade steel, will be divided into an engine compartment, reactor compartment (containing a 90mW pressurised water-cooled water-moderated reactor [PWR] using uranium-aluminum dispersed fuel (cermet) housed within zirconium cladding), a forward compartment housing the vessel’s CMS, integrated platform management system (IPMS), depth-finding echosounder, a mid-frequency active/passive sonar suite comprising a bow-mounted sonar transducer array as well as twin hull-mounted flank arrays, and a torpedo compartment containing three 21-inch (533.4mm) torpedo launch tubes designed and built by Larsen & Toubro (L & T) that will be able to launch heavyweight anti-submarine and anti-ship torpedoes (the TEST-71ME and TEST-71ME-NK models built by Russia’s DVIGATEL FSUE and Region State Research & Production Enterprise).

The ATV’s twin flank-array sonars will be used as a torpedo approach warning system, and a stern-mounted distinctive ‘bulb’ on top of the rudder will house an ultra-low frequency thin-line towed active/passive sonar array to be built in future by state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), broadband expendable anti-torpedo countermeasures developed by RAFAEL of Israel, as well as four universal vertical launcher capable of launching submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). The Navy has already projected a requirement for SLBMs with 8,500km-range and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is expected to develop such an SLBM by 2012.

The related Launch Preparation System and Centralised Real-Time Fire-Control System has been built by BEL as has the CCS Mk3 composite communications system and ATM-based broadband integrated data network. The ATV will feature double-hull construction, dramatically increasing the reserve buoyancy by as much as three times over that of a single-hull vessel. Ballast tanks and other gear will be located between the inner and outer hulls, and limber holes will be provided for the free-flooding sections between the hulls. The ATV’s pressure hull will have four major compartments and the standoff distance between the outer and inner hulls will be considerable, reducing the possibility of inner hull damage. The engine room will feature sound-isolation couplings to prevent transmission of vibrations to the ocean from major fresh-water circulating pumps in the steam cycle. The CMS (comprising a commander’s multi-function console, manoeuvring control console, three weapons management consoles and one EW console), and IPMS (comprising three consoles) are now being developed by TATA Power’s Strategic Systems Division in collaboration with BAE Systems. The retractable masts viewed from bow to stern will include an optronic periscope (to come from the joint venture between Italy’s Riva Calzoni & India’s Larsen & Toubro), along with one I-band surface search/navigation radar and one low-level air defence radar, VLF/VHF/EHF/SHF radio and UHF SATCOM antennae, and one integrated electronic warfare suite [4CH(V)2 Timnex II], all to be supplied by Elbit Systems. The mast fairwater section of the ATV will house a magnetic compass sensor, combined SATCOMS/radio antenna, air supplier for diesel engines, search radar antenna mounted on a non-hull-penetrating optronic search mast, attack periscope housing optronic sensors, plane position indicator, rudder steering unit, course repeater, distance measuring sonar, and a sail plane drive. The ATV will have a double layer silencing system for the power train. Main propulsion machinery will comprise a high-density PWR reactor core rated at 90mW, and a steam turbine developing 35mW. Two auxiliary diesel engines will provide emergency power. The nuclear propulsion system will drive a seven-bladed fixed-pitch propeller with cruciform vortex dissipaters, and provide a maximum submerged speed of 33 Knots and a surface speed of 15 Knots. A reserve propeller system, powered by two motors rated at 370kW, will provide a speed of 4 Knots.

The ATV’s pressure hull will be rated for diving down to a hull-crush depth of 600 metres. The vessel will carry sufficient supplies for an endurance of 80 days and will be operated by a crew complement of 50. The outer hull will be fitted with anechoic and vibration damping coatings to reduce the vessel’s acoustic signature to no more than 110 decibels. The indigenously developed rubber-based anechoic tile will contain thousands of tiny voids, and their function will be two-fold: to absorb the sonar sound waves of active sonar, and reduce and distort the return signal thereby reducing its effective range. The tiles, each of which are 4 inches (100mm) thick, will also attenuate the sounds emitted from the vessel, typically its engines, to reduce the range at which it can be detected by passive sonar. The ATV’s scheduled operational cycle will be divided into 2.5 years, five years and 7.5 years. To mount a patrol, the ATV will require 15 days to be prepared for a 60-day endurance cruise, following which 10 days will be required for replenishing provisions and changing the crew complement. The period between two cruises will be 25 days, while dock repairs and storage battery replacements will be conducted within a 20-day period. Yard repair for the ATV will be conducted over a 12-month period.

Up until 2004 a casual stroll around the Central Government Office Complex or Kashmir House—the current seat of the armed forces’ HQ Integrated Defence Staff in Delhi—revealed the Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) unique approach towards managing this project. A simple, twisted signboard marked the office of the Director-General, ATV project, from where the ATV’s planning, design and fabrication efforts were being directed. The ATV’s design-cum-industrial coordination effort was directed from the Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE) Building, located near the HQ of India’s Research & Analysis Wing. In 2005, both these offices were relocated under one roof to ‘AAKANGSHA’ (Hope), a heavily guarded building located behind the United Services Institution and within an Indian Army enclave near Palam Airport. The Prime Minister heads the Steering and Funding Committee of the project, which is monitored by the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, who is also Secretary of the MoD-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The ATV Project’ Directors have always been Vice Admirals who upon their retirement from the IN had been re-employed at Secretary-level. In addition, there are six retired IN officers of the rank of Rear Admiral who run various segments of the programme (such as weapon systems, CMS, IPMS, acoustic signature management and sonars, integrated powerplant/propulsion system, and communications/electronic warfare). Overall, it is the DRDO that is running the entire project, while the DAE is responsible for developing the close-cycle nuclear propulsion system, a task the latter was entrusted with in 1976. However, since neither the DRDO nor the IN’s Directorate of Naval Design have any hands-on experience in designing submarines, the DRDO in 2002 contracted Russia’s St Petersburg-based Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau under Project 78 to produce production engineering drawings (using TRIBON CAD/CAM software) for the ATV’s hull sections. This drawings were delivered to L & T by late 2003 and included those for the pressure hull, shrouded propulsor, upper and lower rudder segments, starboard hydroplane, aft anchor light, aft rudder and hydroplane hydraulic actuators, Nos1,2,3 and 4 main ballast tank, propeller shaft, high-pressure bottles, towed-array sonar’s cable drum and winch, main ballast venting system, aft and forward pressure domes, air treatment units, naval stores, propeller shaft thrust block and bearing, circulating water transfer pipes, lubricating oil tank, starboard condenser, main machinery mounting raft, port and starboard turbo-generators, combining gearbox, main turbines, steam delivery ducting, aft equipment compartment, watertight bulkheads, manoeuvring room citadel, manoeuvring room’s isolated deck mounting, switchboard room, diesel generator room, static converters, main steam valve, reactor section, forward air-lock, air-handling compartment, waste management system, air-conditioning ducting, galley, forward section’s isolated deck mountings, batteries, junior ratings’ mess, RESM office, commanding officer’s cabin, portside communications office, diesel exhaust mast, snort induction mast, VLF/VHF/SHF/EHF masts, ESM mast, search radar mast, UHF SATCOM mast, integrated comms mast, starboard and portside visual masts, navigation mast, bridge fin access, junior and senior ratings’ bathrooms, battery switchroom, control room consoles, sonar operator’s consoles, senior ratings’ bunks, medical berth, weapons stowage-cum-handling compartment, bow-mounted sonar array, maintenance workshop, depth-sounder and obstacle/mine avoidance sonar room, forward hydroplane and its hydraulic actuators, hydroplane hinge mountings, main administrative office, junior ratings’ berths, torpedo tubes, water transfer tank, torpedo tube bow caps, air turbine pump, weapons embarkation hatch, rigid-hull inflatable boat stowage area, hinged fairlead, anchor windlass, and anchor cable locker. All these sections will be ready for final assembly within the pressure hull by 2011. Final assembly work will take place at the Vizag-based Shipbuilding Centre (SBC) that is headed by a retired Vice Admiral and lies adjacent to the IN’s Naval Dockyard. The entire hull-section welding effort (with the help of 25 major industrial contractors and 250 other vendors) is overseen by the Hyderabad-based Defence Material Department, headed by a retired Rear Admiral.

In March 2007, the MoD decided to hike the project’s financial allocation to Rs140 billion (US$3.3 billion) of which some $2.5 billion is being sourced from the Rupee-Rouble debt settlement scheme that was bilaterally worked out by New Delhi and Moscow way back in 1993. Now, instead of the debt settlement taking place in 2037 as originally envisaged, successive payment tranches to the tune of Rs8 billion ($200 million) per annum will be made by India through to 2016 and in return Russia will help the DRDO realise all the R & D mission objectives of the ATV project (over a three-year period starting 2012, when the ATV will commence its sea trials, and culminating in the conclusion of the sea trials three years later), and subsequently assist in initiating the production of the three SSGNs and one SSBN over a 15-year period starting starting 2015 as currently envisaged by the MoD. Under a separate, yet-to-be-inked contract, Russia will provide technical expertise to the IN for building two planned underwater naval bases (one each along the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala), each of which will cost some $1.5 billion to build and will contain twin underwater submarine tunnel entrances leading to separate berths for accommodating both SSGNs and the SSBN, a hardened underground tunnel for storing nuclear warheads for the SLBMs, plus a command-and-control centre. Subject to approval from the Cabinet Committee on National Security at a later date, both the SSGNs and SSBN will be built by L & T’s Defence Engineering Division at a new $500 million state-of-the-art mega-shipyard that will be operational in Kakinada, Orissa, from 2010. The ATV fabrication facility within this shipyard as well as L & T’s existing fabrication facility in Hazira, Gujarat, are now being built and equipped with the help of Russia’s Krylov Central Research and Scientific Institute, Central Research Institute for Shipbuilding Technology, and the Region Scientific Production Association.

The DAE’s Trombay-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 1976 began work on designing a generic, miniaturised PWR. Altogether, four different types of designs were considered. The first, a water-cooled, water-moderated reactor, used 248 fuel assemblies as its core. The fuel was cermet in zirconium cladding. However, this design was rejected in late 1976, while the second was discarded in 1979, and the third in 1981. The BARC had shelved the first three PWR designs because of engineering objections from the IN. Despite this, BARC succeeded in fabricating a pilot PWR in the early 1990s using the fourth design. By late December 1995 the DRDO had made considerable progress in the design of a 600-tonne pre-test capsule made of titanium that was fabricated in 1994 by Mumbai-based Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd’s Precision Equipment Division. From there the capsule was transported to the PTC. The capsule, containing the BARC-built PWR (with a diameter of 10 metres) was unsuccessfully subjected to on-shore and submerged structural integrity tests in November-December 1995. In June 1996 the programme suffered further setbacks following additional failed tests of the PWR and its containment vessel. This was attributed to the unsuitable design of the reaction control-rod insertion and withdrawal mechanism. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the DAE tried in vain to buy a rod-worth minimiser (RWM) used by reactor operators to guide and monitor the proper sequences for the remotely-controlled withdrawal and insertion of reaction control-rods. By early 1997, the DRDO made serious and successful overtures to Russia for procuring shipborne PWRs and related machinery off-the-shelf. On October 5, 2000, after India and Russia inked an agreement on a news blackout on sensitive information exchanges in the areas of defence and nuclear cooperation and appointed watchdogs to enforce compliance with the new agreement, Moscow agreed to supply an initial two VM-5 PWRs, their related propulsion machinery, plus their detailed engineering drawings off-the-shelf. These arrived at Vishakapatnam in late 2000. These propulsion systems, however, were not brand new, but were unused and originally built for usage on board civilian ice-breaking ships. In addition, Moscow insisted that such hardware be used for replication only, and be integrated with the propulsion system on-shore, and not be installed on any shipborne platform. Adoption of this approach meant that while Russia was not violating its obligations made under the NPT and START-2 nuclear non-proliferation and arms reduction treaties, it was, on the other hand, helping the DRDO and the DAE to overcome the R & D ‘know-how’ challenges by leapfrogging straight ahead to the ‘know-why’ stage. By early 2003, L & T as prime industrial contractor was contracted for fabricating the ATV’s hull sections (with technical assistance from Russia’s Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau, Krylov Central Research and Scientific Institute and the St Petersburg-based Central Research Institute for Shipbuilding Technology), while the DRDO’s Naval Chemicals and Metallurgical Laboratory and Mumbai-based Advani Oerlikon Ltd began supplying indigenously developed metal-cutting and welding solutions to the SBC, where the ATV’s final hull assembly began in 2004 and. The universal vertical launcher to be used for launching the SLBM is being indigenously designed and built by L & T. The IN has also built a Russia-designed facility--the Special Safety Service—adjacent to the SBC for monitoring the health of the people working inside the ATV and the radiation leaks emanating from the vessel. State-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) was contracted by the DRDO to develop the PWR’s heat exchanger in cooperation with Godrej & Boyce, electrical generator and the propulsion system’s geared turbine (connected via a set of reduction gears to a fixed-pitch propeller), transmission shaft and gearbox, with L & T fabricating the seven-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. Pune-based KSB Pumps Ltd (an Indian subsidiary of KSB AG of Germany), is supplying the power-driven centrifugal and eccentric screw pumps and butterfly valves each comprising a cast-iron body with ductile iron or stainless steel disc and EPDM/nitrile rubber liners. Seamless piping is coming from the Maharastra Seamless Ltd subsidiary of the D P Jindal Group. Advani-Oerlikon Ltd is producing welding electrodes and machines for welding the ATV’s hull sections and pipelines, while Kirloskar Electric Company Ltd is building the switchgears, water, air and chemical flowmeters, plus electrical cables, transformers and capacitors. Russia’s St Petersburg-based Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau has been roped in to act as the DRDO’s principal designer-cum-independent design consultant and validate the ATV’s hydrodynamic design/performance parameters. By October 2004, the first PTC-built and VM-5-derived indigenous PWR went critical on-shore at Kalpakkam. The highly enriched uranium fuel for the PWR was supplied by the DAE’s Ratnahalli-based Rare Materials Project (RMP) near Mysore. Two months later, the reactor was integrated on shore with the propulsion system. On November 16, 2005, the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee (now external Affairs Minister) stated in Moscow during the 5th session of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) that Russia had agreed to help India build both the ATV and the 37,500-tonne Project 71 Integrated Aircraft Carrier through technology transfers. By mid-2006, a fully integrated and closed-cycle PWR-powered propulsion system was shipped to Vizag, which has since been encased within the ATV’s L & T-fabricated reactor and engine compartments. By late last year, a propulsion simulator and an IPMS simulator co-developed by TATA Power and BEL were installed at the SBC.

The integrated sonar suite is being developed by the DRDO’s Kochi-based Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory and will be series-produced by BEL. The flank-array sonars’ underwater omnidirectional transducers are 60mm hollow spherical elements fabricated from lead zirconate titanate type-4 material. Fabrication of the light (outer) hull and pressure (inner) hull sections has been undertaken directly at the SBC and is the most challenging part of the ATV’s fabrication process. The hull has been constructed with very high precision, since the inevitable minor deviations are resisted by the stiffener rings, but even a 1-inch (25mm) deviation from roundness results in more than 30% decrease of hydrostatic load. The total pressure force of several million tonnes must be distributed evenly along the hull and be oriented longitudinally, as no material will resist such force by bending. The entire ATV hull thus uses expensive transversal construction, with the stiffener-rings located more frequently than the longitudinals. The welding technique involves twin tandem submerged-arcs for rotated sub-unit circumferential butts, and for frame-to-hull and web-to-table tee butts. Pressure hull static circumferential butts and sub-unit vertical seams are being welded by a mechanised (positional) FCAW process, and semi-auto FCAW is used for all other welding. For non-destructive testing and examination of the butt welds, digitised ultrasonics (using time-of-flight diffraction techniques) are being employed.

For destroying ASW helicopters equipped with dunking sonars, the DRDO and RAFAEL of Israel in early 2006 began co-developing a submarine-launched air defence missile system that will include twin three-cell vertical canisters each containing a ready-to-fire Python 5 missile that can be launched by the ATV from a submerged depth of 50 feet. This variant of the Python 5 air combat missile will have a 12km range. The ATV’s eight torpedo tubes will be capable of launching the TEST-71 family of torpedoes.--Prasun K. Sengupta


Anonymous said...

I dont see the point of India buying all these fancy equipment. As we have seen from Mumbai 26/11India is incapable of defending herself even froma a rag tag army of 10 jihadis. What use is this multi billion dollar equipment if you cant protect your own citizens in your own country let alone on a foreign soil.

Vikas said...

1st ATV a technology demonstrator! Thats a bad news for me :(

Anonymous said...

previously prasun denied anechoic tiles were made of RUBBER

Prasun K Sengupta said...

That wasn't me. I had merely stated that the Amur 1650 SSK did not have such tiles fitted on its outer hull as the berthed SSK's photos taken during IMDS 2005 clearly showed metallic corrosion on the outer hull.

Max said...


Thanks for the article (at last) :)!

What is the truth behind some reports in the media that ATV will be launched in late January?

Secondly do you mean India is planning 3 more Attack Submarines (SSNs) or Cruise Missile Subarines (SSGNs)? You wrote "three attack submarines (SSGN)".

Assuming you meant SSNs, how can merely 3 SSNs and 1 single SSBN be enough for a vast country like India that aspires to have a potent blue water navy? Even small countries like France and UK have 4 SSBNs each. Why does India always think small?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Max, a promise is a promise. Hence the ATV article was uploaded sooner rather than later. It was originally drafted for publication in a magazine last month (the magazine had specifically asked me to draft it, I didn't volunteer to) but for reasons unknown to me (and I don't care what they might be) the magazine decided against publishing the article. Therefore, rather than allowing my labour to go to waste, I decided to upload it. I have several more schematics of the ATV's interior and will upload them periodically in the time to come, rest assured.
Now, turning to your question on why India thinks small, well, I've had this same question to ask ever since the Maruti 800 made its debut! Why on earth couldn't a decent-sized sedan be made in the first place in those days??? Even the TATAs didn't start by making the puny Nano. but with a decent-sized Indica!!!
Now, regarding the ATV's launch next month, it means that after six months of generating steam from the nuclear reactor (since late May), it is time the hull was moved out in the open from the safe environs of the fabrication yard and this is purely for safety reasons. Therefore, don't be surprised to see the ATV's outer hull only when it is floated. Only after this will fitting out begin at pierside and the various on-board systems, especially the electronics LRUs, will begin being installed on the various bulkheads. This process will take at least two years before harbour trials and sea trials begin. These trials will be completed only after a four-year period and hopefully by then the required 8,500km-range SLBM be ready for test-fitings by the DRDO.
Regarding the requirement for SSGNs, a minimum of three are required for ensuring the protection of a single SSBN while at sea. These SSGNs will have on board the BrahMos anti-ship cruise missiles/LACMs (but the Akula 2 will have only 3M54E and 3M14E Club-S). Again, in the Indian context, the sole SSBN will not be required to stay deployed in deep waters for extended periods. The deployment pattern is most likely to be similar to that of China's PLA Navy, that is, just one or two patrols a year. However, for the SSGNs, they are free to engage in several more sea patrols of an extended duration. The number of SSGNs to be acquired is dictated purely by budgetary considerations and realities.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a detail on ATV

Prasun K Sengupta said...
The Pakistan Air Force has already commenced work with Chengdu Aerospace Corp (CAC) for building a stealthier variant of the JF-17 that will also incorporate thrust vectoring and AESA radar.

Prasun K Sengupta said...
The stealthier variant of the JF-17 will take off within the next three years. 150 JF-17s will be of the existing type while another 100 JF-17s will be of the stealthier type.
Cheap and stealthier JF-17 how that is possible??
The airframe is too small to hold any kind of weapons internally even in its current version it lacks a reasonable multi payload capability like that of JAS-39, it can only carry 2 WVR AAM when carrying 2-4 ASM and in air to air role it can only carry 2SRAAM and 2BVRs which includes SD-10 70km range from china and in future if they are able to afford MICA EM 50-60km range from France both of which are less capable to indian R-77 70-90km range and future Astra BVR AAM with 80km+ range
It have only 7 hardpoints for weapons of which 3 are used to fuel to get decent range and an other two for SRAAM which leaves only 2 hardpoints available for use for BVRAAM or air to surface role
It carries a Chinese radar currently and PAF is desperate for French RDY-3 (which speaks for the quality of Chinese radar) which itself is of reasonable technology but nothing advance
China has no AESA so they cannot get it from them even for J-10 MCA let alone JF-17s

Thrust vectoring engine is actually of more interest to me, why should it be used in work horse fighter jet??? From where they are looking to get it?? Could Russia be source of this thrust vectoring engine ???

Russian shipbuilding industry are two major projects: one, for the co-design and joint fabrication of five guided-missile destroyers under Project 15B (for which the Project 22350 DDG is being offered); and the co-design and joint fabrication of seven guided-missile frigates under Project 17A, for which Moscow is offering the Project 1167 FFG.-- Prasun K. Sengupta

Mean while i also heard news that their J-10 MCA might get Russian thrust vectoring AL-31, is it possible?? Can we stop Russia from making sales of such offensive weapons?

How much we can trust Russia on weapons develpoment and slaes to our

Anonymous said...

may be they can in future sell some Club-S or even P-800 Oniks/ Yakhont to them and then we will learn to say no to russia

Prasun K Sengupta said...

The stealthier variant of the JF-17 will definitely not come cheap. At the same time, it will also have aerial refuelling capability and its engines/TVC nozzles will come from China, which had first displayed a prototype of indigenous TVC nozzles way back in 2002 at Zhuhai. As for the AESA radar, both the stealthy JF-17 and FC-20 (J-10A) will have on board the Vixen 500 radar made by Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems. The FC-20 too will have TVC. Pakistan is not in the market for Club-S/M-type of missiles (or the Yakhont) as it already has the 800km-range Babur (ground- and ship-launched) and the 350km-range Ra'ad air-launched cruise missile.

Max said...


Many thanks again. Please upload the other schematics too since it's relevant to the topic. I don't think it's logical to publish it later since we are in the right place now!

Regarding India's small thinking / short sightedness, we can forgive Maruti 800 since it was at a time when India's economy was still in shambles, and at that time, the 800 was a car of its days. What ticks me off is that it's still in production to this very day! I really don't know why even after so many years with a robust economy India's still thinking small. Let me give another instance. Mumbai is replacing their vintage taxis with Maruti Omnis. I know you aren't from India, but have you seen what's an Omni? If you haven't, do an image search on google. Its the most ridiculous crap anybody can use, more so as a taxi. All that in one of the world's biggest city, a megalopolis, India's jewel of the crown. In comparison look at China. They are inducting fleets of VW and Toyota taxis that look modern in tandem with their plan to modernise. All that while we are inducting 20 years old outdated cabs in our premier city. Whatta shame!

Coming back, will the SSGNs / SSBNs to follow after ATV be a replica of its design? If so, do they have plans to turn the ATV they are building now into an operational submarine if the design is succesfully validated? It seems highly unlikely to me that this will be solely a technology demonstrator that will not be put into service if it meets all parameters.

Do you have any details about the 8,500 km SLBM that's expected to arm this submarine? Something brief would do.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Max: There you go! Wish they did in Mumbai what has been done in Chennai and get LNG-run Toyota Avanzas or Optimas instead.

regarding the ATV schematics, there's still a long way to go (another 5 years) before the ATV is fully validated at sea and therefore it is better to wait for the rest of the drawings to follow. As the ATV is only a technology demonstrator, it will form the basis from which the SSBN and SSGN designs will be derived. While the SSBN will have a larger displacement than the ATV, the SSGN will be smaller in size. As is the case in all R & D endeavours, the ATV will reveal a lot in terms of further refining the design and performance parameters of the follow-on SSBNs and SSGNs. And do not be surprised if several 'bumps' are encountered during the sea trials phase as India has never before built a nuclear-powered submarine and is still dependent on foreign collaboration even for building SSKs. Therefore, a more realistic assumption will be 2018 for an operational SSBN to become operational.
Regarding the SLBM, it will definitely be derived from the planned 5,500km-range version of Agni and will be a two-stage ballistic missile carrying up to three MIRVs.

Shriya said...

Prasun dear, can you please provide me the following details:

1. How much in total has India spent on this project since it started out in the 70s?

2. What is the expected cost of each SSGN or SSBN that are supposed to be built?

3. What are India's plans to build a nuclear attack submarine (not SSBN or SSGN). A SSN.

4. Is the steel used developed by SAIL / Mishra Dhatu Nigam? How about steel for the new aircraft carrier?

5. Can India spin off this technology to make conventional submarines? The hull is the same, only smaller. The only thing is to substitute the nuclear turbine with an imported diesel electric turbine. What are their plans in this regard?

6. This is a secret project as you know. Where did these precise details come from? Do you know anyone working in the shipyard or L&T?

7. Lastly, can you decisively say whether ATV will look like this:

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

dei macha, since when chennai has toyota avanza taxi? its not even launched in india.

ATV Sub: when u say this sub displaces less than 7000 tons, how much less? is it like 6500 tons or as low as 4000 to 5000? most places i see they say its gonna be less than 5000 tons. so please clarify.

shriya above, when is Kanthaswamy going to release? it was supposed to be november.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Shriya: Here are your answers:
1) Informed analysis of India’s defence priorities in the Indian Ocean points to a long-term strategy of meeting a potential Chinese incursion (with its SSNs) into the Indian Ocean. This is to be achieved by attaining a sea-denial capability in the Indian Ocean. Work on the ATV formally began in 1983 when the then Defence Minister R Venkataraman and Dr Raja Ramanna, the then Director of the Dept of Atomic Energy’s (DAE) state-owned Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), selected Vice Admiral M K Roy, his flat-mate in London during their college days, to head the project in Delhi. By early 1984, in order to get hands-on experience in nuclear-powered submarine operations, negotiations had commenced with Moscow for the leasing of at least two SSGNs and the training of Indian Navy (IN) crews in the Soviet Union. Vice Admiral R H Tahiliani, the then Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, took a leading role in talks in Moscow in September 1984. The formal agreement to lease a SSGN from the Soviet Union was signed in 1985, with the delivery of a Project 670A Skat (Charlie I-class) SSGN, INS Chakra (K-43) taking place in Vladivostok on January 4, 1988. Built by the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard in Gorky, the K-43 displaced 3,574 tonnes surfaced and 4,980 tonnes dived. It was powered by one VM-4 PWR rated at 89mWe, along with one OK-350 steam turbine rated at 18,800shp. The SSGN’s maximum speed was 12 Knots surfaced and 26 Knots submerged. However, the price that India paid to lease this SSGN for a contracted three-year period was considerable (estimated at Rs1.2 billion per annum), yet IN personnel were denied access to the SSGN’s reactor compartment and weapons bay. The SSGN was returned back to the USSR in January 1991, but not before conducting the IN’s first ever underwater firing (at a depth of 27.5 metres) of a P-70/4K66 Amethyst anti-ship missile in the Bay of Bengal in 1990.

2) In March 2007, the MoD decided to hike the project’s financial allocation to Rs140 billion (US$3.3 billion) of which some $2.5 billion is being sourced from the Rupee-Rouble debt settlement scheme that was bilaterally worked out by New Delhi and Moscow way back in 1993. Now, instead of the debt settlement taking place in 2037 as originally envisaged, successive payment tranches to the tune of Rs8 billion ($200 million) per annum will be made by India through to 2016 and in return Russia will help the DRDO realise all the R & D mission objectives of the ATV project (over a three-year period starting 2012, when the ATV will commence its harbour trials, and culminating in the conclusion of sea trials three years later), and subsequently assist in initiating the production of the three SSGNs and one SSBN over a 15-year period starting starting 2015 as currently envisaged by the MoD. Under a separate, yet-to-be-inked contract, Russia will provide technical expertise to the IN for building two planned underwater naval bases (one each along the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala), each of which will cost some $1.5 billion to build and will contain twin underwater submarine tunnel entrances leading to separate berths for accommodating both SSGNs and the SSBN, a hardened underground tunnel for storing nuclear warheads for the SLBMs, plus a command-and-control centre. Subject to approval from the Cabinet Committee on National Security at a later date, both the SSGNs and SSBN will be built by L & T’s Defence Engineering Division at a new $500 million state-of-the-art mega-shipyard that will be operational in Kakinada, Orissa, from 2010. The ATV fabrication facility within this shipyard as well as L & T’s existing fabrication facility in Hazira, Gujarat, are now being built and equipped with the help of Russia’s Krylov Central Research and Scientific Institute, Central Research Institute for Shipbuilding Technology, and the Region Scientific Production Association.

3) What happens after the ATV technology demonstrator fulfills all its enshrined objectives? This is where the scenario gets murky in terms of futuristic indigenous solutions. As for desired capabilities, the IN would like to have a force structure comprising three SSGNs and one SSBN to ensure a credible seaborne nuclear deterrent in consonance with India’s ‘no-first use’ nuclear weapons employment doctrine that calls for possessing a viable and credible ‘second strike’ capability to inflict ‘unacceptable damage’ to an attacking enemy. The SSGNs will be employed for carrying out long-distance interdiction and surveillance of those hostile submerged targets and principal surface combatants that could possibly compromise the operational mission of the SSBN during wartime. However, in terms of what is achievable, two critical factors—the prohibitively high cost of building the four submarines (estimated at $3.5 billion per unit) and their supporting shore-based infrastructure; and the core technological-cum-industrial competencies required in gargantuan proportions—are likely to result in Navy HQ opting for a more realistic operational solution that calls for deploying only three SSGNs (divided into patrolling, deploying, and refitting elements) each equipped with only a mixture of six BrahMos and six nuclear-tipped 1,500km-range cruise missiles. Even then, it remains to be seen if India’s industrial might rises up to the challenge, especially when one considers the experience of a country like the UK, which spent £3,498 million between March 1997 and June 2007 to build just one new-generation SSGN, the HMS Astute.

4) The steel has been imported from Russia for both the ATV's hull as well as for the Integrated Aircraft Carrier's hull.

5) The technological challenge is not about building or fabricating them, that's easy. The main hurdle to be crossed is to design submarines and all their on-board propulsion/weapon/sensor systems from scratch. It is here that indigenous technological competency is yet to be acquired.

6) Well Shriya dear, you said it right. It is a secret project but not exactly top secret or crypto-classified. At various defence exhibitions there are several informed officials who are willing to talk provided these are strictly off the record. Therefore I do not identify or name my sources in my articles, as you may have observed by now.

7) No, the ATV will not look anything like the 'generic layman's artwork' that appeared earlier in INDIA TODAY.

Will try to upload tonight an article on the Akula 2 and futuristic SSGN project.

Macha, when talking about the Avanza I was talking about the need to procure vehicles like these as taxis. The Optimas are already being used as airport limousines in both Chennai and Hyderabad. The ATV's submerged displacemwent will be close to 7,000 tonnes, but that will be attained only when the SLBMs are deployed on board, hopefully by 2015.

Max said...


Yes, looking at current circumstances as how you've put it, we may only see an operational nuclear submarine towards the end of the next decade.

By the way why isn't then newly developed high grade steel from Midhani being used on the aircraft carrier project in Cochin?

Is there any specific timeline for the underwater bases that India is planning to build? I mean are they only getting started after the first operational SSBN / SSGN gets built?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

The MIDHANI-developed steel is being used, but not for hull construction. The locally-produced steel will be used for fabricating sub-structures and modules. Regarding the shore-based support establishments and underwater bases for nuclear-powered submarines, yes, there are timelines but as like other things such timelines are often good only in paper and are totally dependent on fiscal realities. The problem is that the Govt of India regards defence expenditure as unplanned expenditure and therefore it does not peg defence spending to a certain percentage of the GDP for a defined period. This is not the case with countries like China or Singapore, where the budget is pegged at a fixed percentage for five or ten years, and is increased accordingly to adjust for inflation.
This is also the main reason why the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were successful. It was already known after 1993 what had to be done to forestall such attacks, but no one was willing to spend the money for it. In fact, I'm very much surprised that these attacks took place recently. I was expecting them to happen sometime in 1997 itself! All this talk of intelligence failure is absolute bullshit! As is now well known there was no systemic intelligence failure. Detailed warnings were issued, but the disaster could not be averted simply because the tools required to avoid them could not simply be put in place within a three-month period. A minimum of two years worth of wffort is required to make the coastline impregnable, that is if funds are made available and procurements are fast-tracked.

Shriya said...

thanks dear for that explanation. dear, can you show me how the ATV would look like?? Would it be along the lines of the Akula?? do you have access to its definitive design? if you do pleaseeeee put it up.

i would not ask who your sources are b'coz it is your duty to maintain their anonymity. but i am just asking if ther are credible? are they directly involved in the atv project or have they i turn heard from other sources. to be sure you need inputs from 3 main segments.. suppliers, shipyard (L&T) and navy. i believe you got that right, didnt you?

another thing is when will details regarding this project be formally released to the press?

anon 2.09, the movie will be released later this month or early 2009. depends on producer. its gonna be hot. dont miss it. you too prasun.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Shriya: The ATV will in no way resemble the Akula as the former is an SSBN while the Akula is an SGGN. I do have its definitive hull design as well as that of the SSGN that will follow in future but will not be able to upload it for the next two months. As for sources, all I can say is that they are industry sources and OEMs. The Navy has NOTHING to do with the ATV as it is a DRDO-run and funded project. The ATV is also the property of the DRDO, NOT of the Navy. That's why the ATV will be ONLY a technology demonstrator, and NOT an operational platform. It is exactly like the LCA project: all the LCA TDs and PVs are owned by the DRDO/ADA, and not the IAF. Therefore, kindly....for the umpteenth time....please understand this: the ATV belongs to the DRDO, & NOT the Indian Navy. Therefore, no serving official from the Indian Navy is qualified to even talk about the ATV. As for details being released to the press, I don't know what kind of details you're referring to or implying, as I've already outlined everything in my story above. If you mean when will the DRDO formally reveal all design and production details of the ATV, I very much doubt that will happen before 2012. Only if the project is termed as successful by the DRDO will the data be made available. If there is a horrible (god forbid, but shit happens) accident during sea trials, then the project will be orphaned and no data will ever be released. That's the way things are.

Anonymous said...

wow i m amazed by ur understanding in this stuff! are u a drdo guy?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

No, I'm not.

Max said...

Since we're in the aftermath stage, lets hope to see some changes soon so such a blunder will not repeat.

Max said...

Wow! You have the definitive design of the SSGN? Are these restrictions from your sources that you have to hold it back for another 2 months?

It's fine, if you really cannot upload it at this point I will remind you later :).

Shriya said...

YES PRASUN!!!!!!! please share the pictures a s a p!!!! but in the mean time can u pls explain what does it look like [ i really hope it looks like the Borei class in construction in Russia ]. Anywhere close to that dear?

Ok and don't get angry. Now i understand it belongs to DRDO and not anybody else. You say no serving official should talk about it but i recall adm. sureesh mehta talking about it.

You said drdo won't release data about the submarine if it flops. but why is that not the case with kaveri or trishul missile that also flopped? drdo has released all the details relating to it even before anything much was attained. So why for this project there have even been no confirmation by drdo officials about its progress or exact tonnage?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Shriya, you are assuming that since Russian design houses are involved with the ATV project, then automatically the ATV will externally resemble a submarine being built for the Russian Navy. In reality, the ATV's design is totally different and there's no external resemblance whatsoever. The Borei-class you refer to is an operational submarine whereas the ATV is merely a technology demonstrator.
When the Indian Navy Chief spoke about the ATV in December last year, he only confirmed what I've stated: that it is a DRDO project and has nothing to do with the Navy. His predecessor had said the same thing. If you read their exact quotations that's what you'll find. Lastly, you can't compare the complexity of the ATV project with those for the Trishul and Kaveri programmes. The Trishul SHORADS' R & D phase didn't flop. What happened was that the SHORADS being developed by the DRDO was not matching up to the qualitative staff requirements of the end-user. The same goes for the Kaveri turbofan. It has not been declared as a flop as it is still under development. Moreover, the marine industrial gas turbine variant of the Kaveri is producing good results and is likely to be chosen as the powerplant for the follow-on four Project 28A corvettes to be built by GRSE.

Shriya said...

Prasun dear, About kaveri, simple as this. The engine was envisaged for use on the Tejas. It did not meet its original target. It is no where near being fitted on the Tejas that HAL is approaching foreign vendors. So it is a FLOP. period. what offshoots from that we don't care. The original project (which is for LCA engine) is an utter flop. now we are deriving that technology for marine turbine so its a different project. Same goes with Trishul missile. What do you call a product that doesn't meet consumer's demand? a flop. Just like a movie. If a movie does not sell, it is called a FLOP. Trishul never sold, so it's a FLOP. Ok dear?

What I am saying is that even before Trishul and Kaveri saw the light of day DRDO officials were talking to the whole wide world about it. Why aren't they doing the same for ATV? That is what I am asking. No drdo has formally come out and give details about ATV as how they have done for these 2 projects.

Coming back to kaveri marine variant, please do us an article about it if you have the details. What we hear is very sketchy from the press. Something more clear would be appreciated with pictures.

Regarding ATV 1 final question about its design: will it look like a real SSGN thats capable of being put to service or an expermental bug? Does it look good and modern?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

No it won't look like a real SSGN because it isn't, it is only a technology demonstrator. But all its on-board systems and mission sensors will be contemporary, if not state-of-the-art, as the design was frozen way back in 2001.

Shriya said...

What the heck? Won't look like a real SSGN!!?? Then how will they validify the proposed SSGN's design if this is not gonna look like a sub??!! It's ok I will wait the 2 months out in confidence youll share the rendering with us.

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