Maritime rivalry between India and China is heating up, with the two countries making rapid strides to deploy a credible sea-bound nuclear deterrent this year.
India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, Arihant, will head for “comprehensive sea and weapon trials” within a month, a big leap towards the country completing its nuclear triad — the ability to launch strategic weapons from land, air and sea, a navy official said.
The 6,000-tonne Arihant is moving closer to kicking off patrols, armed with nuclear warheads, this year. China’s newest submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Julang-2, to be deployed on the Jin-class (Type 094) boats, is expected to attain operational capability this year. The JL-2 SLBM is expected to have a range of 7,250 km, more than that of the missiles to be fitted on the Arihant. The Indian submarine will be equipped with the K-15 missile, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead up to 750 km.
Two more nuclear-powered submarines are in the works to reinforce India’s strategic deterrent force at sea. China plans to expand its Jin-class fleet from the existing two to eight by the end of this decade. China’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the old Xia-class (Type 092), was commissioned in the late 1980s but never took up deterrent patrols.