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First nuclear sub puts India in elite club of countries

By, Visakhapatnam
Feb 10, 2024 06:20 AM IST

India joined the ranks of maritime nuclear powers on February 3, 1988, with the induction of its first nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra into the Indian Navy. The submarine was not armed with nuclear weapons and was equipped for training and self-defense. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi emphasized the importance of safety measures and peaceful means of conflict resolution. The INS Chakra belonged to the Victor 1 SSN class of submarines and had a speed of 32 knots when submerged. India may acquire more advanced submarines in the future.

India on February 3, 1988, joined the ranks of maritime nuclear powers with the induction of its first nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra into the Indian Navy by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the eastern naval command in Visakhapatnam.

PM Rajiv Gandhi inducted INS Chakra on February 3, 1988. (HT Archive)
PM Rajiv Gandhi inducted INS Chakra on February 3, 1988. (HT Archive)

Receiving the submarine at a ceremony at the naval base, Gandhi said particular attention was paid to the management of nuclear waste material.

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There would be periodic audit of waste material thus setting aside any apprehensions that spent fuel could cause any radiation hazards, he said.

The Navy had stipulated tight regulations, both at sea and on shore, so that highest standards were adhered to for the protection of personnel and the safety of the environment, the PM said. “There would be regular reviews of safety measures and contingency plans for emergencies.”

Noting that the sophisticated technology imposed special responsibilities on India, Gandhi said “seaborne reactor operations call for the most stringent safety standards and specifications”.

In this context, he said , all fail-safe radiation protection measures had been taken.

Gandhi made it clear that INS Chakra was propelled by nuclear power, “but not armed with nuclear weapons. Nor is there any simulation of nuclear weapons on board the submarine”. It was equipped for training and self-defence, he added.

Referring to the long coastline that India to defend, the Prime Minister said: “Our Navy must have the capacity to travel long distances under water without having to refuel frequently.”

Such long-lasting source of power is provided only by nuclear energy, he said.

Without making any direct reference to Pakistan, the Prime Minister said that India attached the highest importance to living in peace and friendship with its neighbours. He said all bilateral problems must be solved through peaceful means.

“Ours is a continuing effort at keeping open the lines of dialogue, exploring all avenues of settlement, and taking fresh initiatives,” he added.

While noting that India was seeking enduring peace and all-embracing friendship, he said: “At the same time we are determined to maintain a state of military preparedness which will ensure our ability to meet any eventuality.”

Gandhi spent more than two hours inside INS Chakra. Immediately after arrival at the Visakhapatnam jetty, Gandhi, along with defence minister KC Pant, put on overalls and entered the submarine, at about 11.30am.

Sitting atop the conning tower, Gandhi waved at newsmen and photographers who followed him in a speed boat.

During the two-hour cruise under the waters of the Bay of Bengal, the Prime Minister held discussions with nearly 80 crew members led by Captain Ganeshan.

“There must be no sliding back to obsolete doctrines of war as an instrument of policy in international relations. There must be no substitution of nuclear weapons by other weapons of mass destruction, or weapons based on laser and other technologies,” Gandhi said.

He added that the progress to a world without nuclear weapons must be accompanied by a search for comprehensive structure of international security.

“The principle of peaceful coexistence on which the Charter of the United Nations is based must be given real meaning,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the “strategies of outside powers” in our region had forced upon India the expenditure of building military strength which it would much rather have deployed for removal of poverty and promotion of development.

“The Indian Ocean had been militarised and infested with nuclear weapons, flouting the overwhelming sentiment in the region in favour of establishing a zone of peace. So long as threats to our sovereignty and integrity continue, India has no option but to take every possible step to safeguard its security,” he said.

Designed purely as an attack submarine, for both anti-submarine and anti-ship roles, the INS Chakra belongs to the Victor 1 SSN class of submarines, and is the first of its kind with an albacore hull form, a new reactor system and a new generation design shared by the more modern Charlie class nuclear submarines.

With a speed of 32 knots when submerged, the INS Chakra has a snoop tray radar and carries a complement of 90 sailors. It also has two steam turbines as additional standby. Chakra has a very low frequency buoy and Elf floating radar, while surfaced it communicates through two very high frequency and uniform frequency aerials.

According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, India might get a few of the more state of art Victor-III class submarines in another three or four years. The weekly also speculates that two to four Charlie-II SSGN submarines might also be given by the Soviet Union to India. The Charlie-II is capable of carrying cruise missiles.

Victor-Ill submarines are the frontline subs of the Soviet navy and were first commissioned in 1979; they are still being commissioned. With the addition of the INS Chakra, the Indian submarine fleet strength has risen to fourteen.

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