How The Indian Navy Suddenly Became a Major Power

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How The Indian Navy Suddenly Became a Major Power

India’s first nuclear sub, the Charlie-class SSGN, INS Chakra

by Harold Hutchison

The Indian Navy has quietly become one of the most powerful navies in the world, and it’s still on the upswing. You might be surprised, thinking to yourself, “how did the land of the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi become a major military power?”

Truth is, the Indian Air Force has long been a power in South Asia. Not only have they improved on Russian-era jets, but they've also built their own jets and helicopters. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has also become a major power. It has operated aircraft carriers continuously since 1961, a streak second only to the United States Navy. Not even the vaunted Royal Navy can match that (and no, the HMS Ocean doesn't count).

How The Indian Navy Suddenly Became a Major Power

The largest and the first indigenously-built, 40,000-ton aircraft carrier (IAC) named INS Vikrant

But one of the biggest areas in which India is advancing is in submarines. The nation’s success is built upon a tradition of very advanced sub-operations. India is one of six countries to have operated a nuclear-powered submarine. In fact, they quietly commissioned the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant just last year.

The Indians aren’t stopping there. While SSBNs are important to establishing a survivable deterrent, India also needs to protect those subs or to take the fight to an enemy navy far from shore. According to NDTV.com, India is now pursuing plans to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.

India already has some experience with nuclear attack submarines. The Indian Navy leased a Charlie-class, nuclear-powered, cruise-missile submarine from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, called INS Chakra. Recently, India acquired a more modern Akula-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia, naming it INS Chakra II.

Outside of the announced plans to build them, India has not released details about this new class of nuclear submarines. That said, the development of the Arihant shows that it may not be a design to be taken lightly.