INS Arihant Accident Raises Questions About The Sustainability Of India’s SSBN Force


As news emerged of an accident that may have damaged INS Arihant, it’s worth considering just how difficult getting a sea-based nuclear deterrent off the ground (or under the sea) can be. India has embarked on the pursuit of an SSBN force much differently than any previous nuclear power, and even other navies have struggled to make it work.

The idea of putting part of a nuclear deterrent on submarines emerged in the 1950s, as the United States and the USSR experimented with arming diesel-electric boats with rudimentary cruise and ballistic missiles. The value of nuclear propulsion was immediately obvious, as it allowed subs to remain on patrol for long periods of time.

The U.S. Navy was remarkably successful in getting its sea-based nuclear deterrent under way. After experiments with diesel subs, the USN ordered construction of the George Washington class SSBN, a five boat group based on the Skipjackclass SSNs. The first George Washington, carrying 16 Polaris SLBMs, entered service in 1959 and remained active until the 1980s. Later USN SSBNs built on the same successful template. Read More…

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