-This fairly detailed (India's ATV SSN Submarine Project, from Defense Industry Daily December 10, 2007) discussion of provides a interesting analysis of why India is developing its submarine fleet and some of the problems of depending on the Russians:
"According to GlobalSecurity.org, India's ATV (advanced technology vessel) program to build a nuclear-powered submarine began in 1974, and became a serious effort in 1985.The Federation of American Scientists' December 1996 document "The Indian Strategic Nuclear Submarine Project: An Open Literature Analysis" remains one of the best single open sources on India's program. Unfortunately, it was compiled over a decade ago and has become rather dated...
The ATV Program: Background
India has long sea lanes, and industrial progress is forcing greater interest in Africa, with its natural resources and sizable Indian diaspora. China maintains a similar interest, and so the sea lanes from South Africa to the Straits of Malacca have become a focus for quiet rivalry. A nuclear-powered submarine's ability to remain underwater almost indefinitely has substantial benefits over long sea lanes – and also has significant deterrence potential, if equipped with cruise missiles for land attack roles.
Even so, the going was slow in India. Reports indicate that it took until the late the late 1980s before funding began to flow into the ATV project in a more serious manner. In January 1988, Russia reportedly leased India a single-reactor Charlie-I Class SSGN for evaluation and training purposes.
Progress on the ATV continued thereafter, and in our 2005 article "India's Multi-billion Dollar Scorpene Sub Contract (Updated)," DID noted a Times of India report which claimed that spin-offs from the diesel-electric Scorpene Class project for 6 new submarines would help India with its ATV program.
A development reactor had gone critical at Kalpakkam in southern India in October 2004, anf by August 2006, Jane's Navy International reported Indian claims that they had successfully developed a naval 100MW atomic reactor for the ATV SSN program that was "fully operational."
In truth, the Scorpene project had nothing to do with that crucial step. It does improve India's native capabilities in submarine design and construction, but developing a miniaturized reactor suitable for naval use in submarines is a technical challenge all its own. Now that the reactor design is operational, however, India's level of submarine design and build expertise will come into play.
Given a nuclear fast attack submarine's inherent capabilities, however, the big question is whether the ATV is designed as a long range patrol submarine with conventional land attack capabilities, like most SSNs, or whether the intent is to arm it with nuclear-tipped missiles.
In a December 2007 press conference, India's Naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta made that aspect clearer when he said that: "in our credible minimum nuclear deterrent plans, the induction of nuclear weapons under sea constitutes the third triad." Israel's sea-launched, medium-long range cruise missiles would certainly fit that bill, and their Popeye Turbo design reportedly has the heft to carry nuclear weapons.
Basic Nuclear Propulsion
Dec 6/07: India's Naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta vows that the ATV nuclear submarine, currently under construction at Vishakhapatnam by the DRDO, will be commissioned and ready for trials "within 2 years" (2009). The reactor, he said, is now in the process of being mounted on the submarine's hull. In the meantime, he said, India was negotiating to lease a Russian SSN Akula Class/ Project 971 nuclear submarine, and hoped the country would get the platform in the middle of 2008 for training Indian naval personnel. Daylife news roundup on the topic New Kerala report.
Senior members on India's military have issued many statements of this kind on various topics, only some of which emerge from India's procurement and development bureaucracy and come true. Time will tell, but if the naval reactor is operational and proves to be safe, India will have conquered the biggest part of the SSN challenge.
The Akula lease may prove more problematic. Given Mehta's reported rejection of Russia's request for additional funds to finish work on the INS Vikramaditya (ex-Gorshkov) carrier conversion, it would certainly be easy for Russia to use an Akula lease as a very strong bargaining chip, and hold up approval pending satisfaction on other fronts. After all, barring a major and unexpected commitment from the USA, India isn't likely to find a lease of that type from any other source.
July 1/06: The Hindu reports that Russia's Nerpa fast attack nuclear submarine is launched at the Amur shipyard. Nerpa is a Project 971 third-generation submarine (NATO code name Akula-II). RIA Novosti reports that she will join Russia's Pacific Fleet in 2007 after undergoing sea trials – Indian and Russian officials have denied reports that she would be leased to India.
February 2006: The Russian online daily Kommersant reports an announcement by Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation head Mikhail Dmitriev, that Russian arms export for the year 2005 touched $6.126-billion. This amount is $826 million more than the amount announced by Russian President Vladmir Putin on Dec 28/05. Kommersant, quoting military sources, attributes the increase to the delivery to China the eighth Project 636 submarine ($225 million) and sale to India of the Akula Project 971 nuclear submarine ($600 million) constructed by Amur Shipbuilder in the Khabarovsk Region.
January 2006: The Monterey Institute for International Studies' Center for Nonproliferation Studies reports that:
"Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov has announced that Russia plans to lease two nuclear submarines to India. The statement was made during his visit to the Amurskiy Shipyard [see map] in the Russian Far East in late January 2002. The shipyard is constructing the first submarine India would lease—the Nerpa, a Shchuka B-class [NATO name 'Akula II'] nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN). [See Shchuka B-Class SSN Stats.] The second submarine, the Kuguar, is being constructed in the Far North at the Sevmash facility in Severodvinsk. India will provide Russia with financing to complete construction of the two SSNs, while Russia will train four Indian submarine crews and provide India with the submarines for five years, beginning in 2004."
Sept 17/98: The Bellona Foundation's brief concerning the Russian Northern Fleet conveys a report from the Russian Defence Ministry's official newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda that Russia is assisting India in completing the submarine's hull and installation of the nuclear reactor. It adds:
"During the past years, ATV has not been receiving sufficient funding, as most of the recourses were spent on development of nuclear bombs. This year, the Indian Defence Ministry has managed to increase funding by 15% for 1998/1999, amounting to more than $10 billion. The future funding has been guaranteed as well… According to Russky Telegraph, the hulls of the submarines laid down in India are almost blueprints of the newest Russian attack submarine, the Severodvinsk-class, which is currently under construction in Severodvinsk, Arkhangel'sk County. Indian submarines reportedly will be outfitted with one PWR reactor with a power output of 190 MW. The same machinery is placed on the Severodvinsk-class submarine.""