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The path to deterrence: Arihant SLBM

GS Paper III

Syllabus : Nuclear technology, Security challenges.


Source: Indian Express

Directions: This Article has been taken from Indian Express. Go through it once, you can use it for value addition.

Context:  Acquiring the optimum degree of nuclear deterrence is imperative for India, given its distinctive spectrum of security and strategic challenges.

Launch of SLBM (Submarine-launched ballistic missile):

  • Recently India successfully launched SLBM and joined among the group of six nations that have demonstrated similar underwater capability i.e. Russia, the UK, the USA, France and China.
    • In August 2016, North Korea claimed a successful launch of an SLBM.
  • Significance: It will help in a robust, survivable and assured retaliatory capability in keeping with India’s policy to have ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence‘ that underpins its ‘No First Use’ commitment.”
    • It increases the second-strike capability of India and thus boosts its nuclear deterrence.

Issues concerning India’s deterrence capabilities

  • Modest ballistic profile of SLBM Launched: this is evident from the characteristics associated with the 6,000-ton INS Arihant.
    • It is reportedly fitted with the K -15 SLBM, which has a range of 750 km and this would be classified as a short-range missile.
  • Slow progress: India has made slow but steady progress in its missile programme, nuclear weapon capability, the nuclear submarine and more recently the building of an aircraft carrier.
    • But all these capabilities remain a “work-in-progress”.
  • Handicapped carrier: The indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant) is handicapped by not having the appropriate fighter aircraft and an SSBN whose ICBM capability is some years away.

Emerging challenges in water:

  • US-China contestation: Currently, the global geopolitical domain is in a state of flux and the US-China contestation amongst other issues will roil the waters.
  • Ukraine war: The outcome of the war in Ukraine and the orientation of the Delhi-Moscow relationship will have a bearing on India’s strategic programmes.


Thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that India is in a “complex chrysalis phase” as far as the maritime domain is concerned.

What India needs to do?

  • Arm the INS Arihant with a 3,500 km missile IRBM (intermediate-range ballistic missile).
  • At the next stage arm its SSBN with a missile whose range is in excess of 5,000 km — which would qualify as an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile).

That is the stage when India would be deemed to have acquired the requisite level of strategic capability to “validate the SSBN programme, a key element of India’s nuclear deterrence capability.

What is India’s ballistic missile submarine programme?

  • India’s nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programme is a closely guarded project.
  • INS Arihant was the first boat under the SSBN project followed by another boat, INS Arighat.
  • SSBN programme is a key element of India’s nuclear deterrence capability.
    • SSBN’s are those classes of submarines which can go deep beneath the ocean making them virtually undetectable for months, they also carry nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Insta Links

Prelims link

  • What is a ballistic missile?
  • About INS Arihant
  • About INS Vikrant
  • Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme

Mains Links:

Nuclear weapons as deterrence or defence have limited usage against contemporary security threats to states. Explain the statement.