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India’s strategic outlook in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is taking a significant leap forward with plans for a new fleet of nuclear attack submarines (SSNs). This program, reportedly initiated in 2015 by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), aims to bolster India’s “overall deterrence capability” in the region.

The new SSNs will complement India’s existing nuclear triad, which comprises land-based ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), and now, nuclear attack submarines. The SSNs are likely to be constructed at the secretive shipbuilding centre (SBC) in Visakhapatnam (Vizag), where India’s SSBNs are currently under development.

The program is envisioned in phases. The first phase focuses on developing three 6,000-ton SSNs powered by a new indigenous nuclear reactor designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Design work is reportedly nearing completion, with project launch anticipated before 2027-28. The first submarine is expected to be launched for sea trials sometime after 2035.

The Indian Navy’s ambitions extend beyond the initial three SSNs. Phase II reportedly includes plans for an additional three submarines, while Phase III envisions even more advanced variants, potentially bringing the total fleet to nine. Details on Phase III remain scarce, but it’s expected to incorporate advanced technologies and potentially larger submarines exceeding 6,000 tons. Notably, the Navy’s SSN design allows for future expansion to accommodate even 8,000-ton submarines if deemed necessary.

Despite the challenges, India’s SSN program reflects its aspirations for a more potent and versatile navy. The program’s success will depend on continued technological advancements, resource allocation, and strategic planning. It will be interesting to see how this program evolves and contributes to India’s evolving maritime posture in the IOR.

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