India's first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine launched on Sunday will take much longer than the projected two years to become operational, according to naval experts, who say the real big test now is to ensure that the on-board reactor attains criticality.
Noting there is a still lot left to do, the experts said scientists had a onerous task to see that the on-board nuclear reactor, the heart of the submarine, attains criticality without any hitches.
Naval officials said INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) codenamed Advanced Technology Vessel(ATV) will undergo two years of sea trials in the Bay of Bengal after which they hope to see the submarine commissioned for full service.
"It is little optimistic only for one reasons because it the first of its class. In the first of the class there are a large number of checks to be carried out. It could take much longer time frame than the two years being projected(for INS Arihant)," said Vice Admiral A K Singh(retd) former Captain of INS Chakra, the Charlie-class nuclear submarine.
The second ATV or the third ATV will definitely come out much faster, Singh said.
C Uday Bhaskar, Director, National Maritime Foundation, said, " I don't think we should over interpret the capability
of the Arihant at this stage because there are many more complex technological steps before the particular nuclear reactor on the Arihant acquires criticality."
Bhaskar said hopefully three to five years down the road India would be a credible naval power because the country
would then have the capability to fit the submarine with nuclear propulsion.
Former naval chief Admiral(retd) Arun Prakash said a lot of work lies ahead for the country's scientists and engineers.
"The big day will however come when the nuclear reactor attains criticality," he said.