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INS Arihant to be launched for trial soon: Navy chief

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant will be soon launched for sea trials as part of efforts towards completing India's nuclear triad and to achieve a credible and invulnerable retaliatory strike capability, Indian Navy said on Tuesday.

The indigenous 6,000-tonne INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was unveiled in 2009 as part of a project to construct five such vessels which would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles and torpedoes.

"Arihant is steadily progressing towards its operationalisation and we hope to commence sea trials in the coming months. Given our unequivocal no-first-use commitment-- a retaliatory strike capability that is credible and invulnerable is an imperative," Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said at his farewell press conference.

"The Indian Navy is poised to complete the triad and our maritime and nuclear doctrines will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea," he added.

INS Arihant is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots), according to defence officials. It will carry a 95-member crew.

Nirmal Verma said commissioning of the nuclear attack submarine INS Chakra on January 23 launched India into a "select group of six nations" that operate SSNs.

The Russian-origin submarine "Chakra" has added "considerable punch to our maritime power and will aid in developing future concepts of naval operations in this very critical sphere," he said.

On the "declining" force level of Russian Kilo and German HDW diesel electric submarines, he said "it is a fact and that is why there is a proposal that we build two submarines at the collaborator's shipyard and that case is being pursued with the Defence Ministry."

The Navy is planning to issue a tender soon for six new diesel electric submarines under Project-75 India and of these the two are planned to be developed at foreign vendor's shipyard, Verma said adding such an initiative will also help in training the construction team to work on the project when it starts in the country.

On alleged hacking of its networks by Chinese hackers, the Navy Chief said "very very stringent action" would be taken against officers and personnel found responsible for lapses in following cyber protocol.

He said the Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the issue was complete and was awaiting further action.

"We have made several policies and advisories which, if followed, would prevent such incident. If there are any lapses, then such things can happen... There has not been much compromise and we are examining it in the headquarters."

Asked if the hacking was by Chinese hackers, he said it was "not hacking as such" and it was difficult to reach the sources.

Listing the major modernisation plans of the force, the Navy Chief said the government has given approvals for around 200 Navy proposals worth of over Rs 2.73 lakh crore, of which contracts worth over Rs 92,000 crore have already been concluded.

A record number of 15 ships have been commissioned into the Navy over the past three years, which include the three Shivalik class stealth frigates, two fleet tankers, one follow-on 1135.6 class stealth frigate sail training ship and eight water-jet FACs.

He said the commissioning of INS Dweeprakshak and Naval Air Station Baaz in Campbell Bay in Andaman and Nicobar islands would also help enhance the security of the country's Island territories.

Asked about capabilities at the NAS Baaz, he said the base would operate smaller and lighter transport aircraft and once the air strip length is increased to 10,000 feet, it would be able to operate fighter aircraft also.

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