The INS Arighat was to be commissioned into service in late 2020 but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the plan

India will commission its second nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), Arighat, this year says a report.

The submarine, which had been quietly launched in 2017 by the then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is currently in the final stages of sea trials.

The INS Arighat was to be commissioned into service late last year but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the plan.

The boat has four missile launch tubes, capable of carrying 12 K-15 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) or four K-4 SLBMs. While the K-15 has a range of 750 kilometre, the K-4 can hit targets 3,500 km away.

K-15 missile has entered service. The last developmental trial of the K-4 was conducted in January 2020 and, reports say, the missile is ready for induction. With the induction of K-15, India’s SSBNs will become capable of targeting large parts of China, including Beijing, and all of Pakistan, during a crisis.

India currently has only one SSNB, INS Arihant, in service.

Two more SSBNs, identified as S4 and S4* for now, are under final assembly at the Ship Building Centre in Visakhapatnam. These boats will not only be better armed — capable of carrying eight 3,500 km range K-4 — than INS Arihant and Arighat but also displace 1,000 tons more than the two submarines.

India is also working on SSNs or nuclear-powered submarines which are armed with missiles with conventional warheads. The plan is to build at least six SSNs with a displacement capacity of 6,000 tons.

The SSN program, reports say, was cleared in 2015, a year after the Narendra Modi government came to power. The Gurgaon-based Submarine Design Centre had started working on the project sometime in 2017.

India is also developing a new series of SSBNs, which will be much larger and better armed than the Arihant-class SSBNs. Currently identified in news reports as S-5, this type will have a displacement of 13,500 tons. Reports say the type will be capable of carrying 12 long-range nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.