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The secret undersea weapon(India's nuclear submarine)
India Today ^ | January 17, 2008 | Sandeep Unnithan

Posted on 01/18/2008 10:17:50 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki

The secret undersea weapon

Sandeep Unnithan

January 17, 2008

Located up the winding shipping channel in Visakhapatnam harbour is a secret, completely enclosed facility known only as the Shipbuilding Centre (SBC).

Inside this dry dock, nearly 50m below ground level, is a cylindrical black shape, which is as tall as a two-storey building and at 104 m in length, is longer than the Qutub Minar lying on its side.

Technicians working on it confess to a surge of national pride: India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine or SSBN is arguably its greatest engineering project.

For over a quarter of a century, the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), smaller than the USS Alabama from Crimson Tide, has been among the most highly-classified government programmes, if not the most delayed.

Officials still refuse to confirm the existence of the project or the sea-based ballistic missile. A decade after India came out of the nuclear closet in the sands of Pokhran, it has moved some tantalising steps closer to realising the third and possibly the toughest of the three legs of the triad enunciated in its nuclear doctrine: a sea-based deterrent or a secure underwater platform for launching nuclear weapons.

“Things are developing as per schedule,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony recently said of ATV. Early last month, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta was the first government official to not only confirm its existence but also lay down a timeframe: “It is a DRDO project and a technology demonstrator. It is somewhere near completion and will be in the water in two years.”

The admiral had reason to feel confident about the project. Just last month, an 80MW nuclear reactor, smaller than a bus, was pushed into the hull of the submarine and successfully integrated—a milestone in the project approved by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1970.

By April 2009, the submarine will be launched and will begin sea trials before it is inducted into the navy. The goal is to field a fleet of three SSBNs by 2015, one in reserve and two on patrol, each carrying 12 nucleartipped ballistic missiles (Artist’s impression of India’s nuclear-propelled ballistic missile submarine) .

Possibly the last “gift” to India from the now-extinct Soviet Union, it was designed with Russian assistance in the late ’80s. Based on an entirely new design, the 6,000 tonne submarine (not the elderly Charlie class N-sub as thought earlier) will make India the world’s sixth nation to operate a “boomer”.

Part of the acceleration in the programme has to do with the rapid buildup of Chinese nuclear forces. China operates 10 nuclear submarines, and in the past year, has fielded as many as three new Jin-class SSBNs, each carrying 12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). “Given the growing military asymmetry with China, India’s need for a reliable nuclear deterrent that can survive a first strike has never been greater,” says strategic expert Brahma Chellaney.

ATV is in line with India’s nuclear doctrine enunciated in 1999, which calls for its nuclear forces to be effective, enduring, diverse, flexible and responsive to the requirements in accordance with the concept of credible minimum deterrence. The doctrine calls for high survivability against surprise attacks and for a rapid punitive response.

A nuclear submarine that can remain submerged almost indefinitely and cannot be detected underwater, therefore, meets all these criteria and offers an almost invulnerable launch platform for nuclear weapons.

For a country like India with a no-first use policy, it is vital because it prevents a potential adversary from launching a crippling first strike that can knock out all nuclear weapons (see box). It also allows India to inflict considerable damage to the aggressor.

“One submarine carries at least 12 missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles, which could mean as many as 96 warheads. When such a submarine goes out to the sea, that many missiles are removed from our own territory. The enemy’s targeting of that many sites gets neutralised,” says Rear Admiral (retired) Raja Menon.

ATV, with its suitably muted acronym, was a euphemism for a longdelayed project. Shrouded in obsessive secrecy for decades, it has been under the direct supervision of the prime minister, who also chairs ATV’s apex committee.

Nearly 200 naval officers and technicians are directly involved in the project that is managed by a vice-admiral who functions out of ATV headquarters in Delhi Cantonment. Funding was never a problem, even during the lean days of defence spending, like in the pre-1990s. An estimated Rs 2,000 crore was spent even before work on the submarine was started.

The excessive secrecy, say experts, was based on a misinterpretation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—that building a nuclear submarine would be a violation. There was, therefore, a lack of accountability, which harmed the project.

Project officials in Vizag are now sealing the reactor with a special shield and plugging in the control systems, turbines and piping. The next few months are critical. After the reactor compartment is sealed, the tail sector— which includes the propeller and the shaft—will be welded in and the submarine will be ready. By April next year, the dry dock will be flooded and the vessel will be officially launched.

After it hits the water, the nuclear reactor will be jump-started and the submarine’s propellers— seven highlyskewed brass blades—will be tested. After the reactor and all its associated control systems are successively proven, the submarine will be towed out of the harbour for extensive sea trials lasting over a year before it is inducted into the navy around 2010.

While the impending launch of ATV is reason for cheer, the actual fielding of a secure second-strike capability is still three years away. This is the time it will take to integrate and successfully test fire the missile from the submarine. Without its nuclear missiles, the submarine is just a platform.

The missile is being concurrently developed under an equally-classified programme. Announcing its successful test in April last year, DRDO chief M. Natarajan called it “a strategic system which I cannot talk about”.

The enigmatic two-stage missile— dubbed K-15 under the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Sagarika (oceanic) project— is a technological breakthrough. Rapidly ejected from the submarine’s launcher by igniting an underwater gas booster, it rises nearly 5 km above the ocean.

When it reaches a pre-determined height, it ignites a solid booster and travels to a range of nearly 750 km. Tested three times from a specially-designed submersible pontoon, the yetto-be-named “naval missile” is another feather in India’s cap.

The 100-member crew, which will man the submarine, is being trained at an indigenously-developed simulator in the School for Advanced Underwater Warfare (SAUW) at the naval base in Vizag. Hands-on training will be done on the INS Chakra, a 12,000-tonne Akula-II class nuclear-powered attack submarine being taken on a 10-year lease from Russia next year.

SBC in Vizag is to become the assembly line for three ATVs, costing a little over Rs 3,000 crore each or the cost of a 37,000 tonne indigenous aircraft carrier built at the Cochin Shipyard.

Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has begun building the hull of the second ATV at its facility in Hazira, to be inducted into the navy by 2012. The SSBN fleet will be housed on the east coast at a new naval base in Rambilli, a few kilometres south of Visakhapatnam, where nearly 3,000 acre of land has been acquired for India’s first strategic base, to be manned entirely by military personnel.

Unlike the narrow single channel in Visakhapatnam, it will offer the nuclear fleet direct access into the sea. The first phase of the project, costing approximately Rs 1,500 crore, will be ready by 2011.

Why has the project taken so long? For a country that built only two conventional submarines of the Germandesigned HDW Type 1500 class in the early ’90s, building a nuclear submarine was the ultimate challenge: a DRDO official sees the learning curve to be the equivalent of a scooter mechanic building a Mercedes.

The key challenge, however, was not in designing or fabricating the hull, but the reactor and containment vessel, which consumes one-tenth (nearly 600 tonne) of the vessel’s total displacement. The hydrodynamics of a vessel with one-tenth of its weight concentrated in one place is a formidable naval engineering challenge, but miniaturising a nuclear reactor the size of a football field to fit inside an 8m enclosure is an even bigger hurdle.

This was among the reasons for the decade-long delay in the project. The nuclear reactor in a submarine generates heat to convert water into saturated steam to turn the submarine’s turbines. Unlike an oilfired boiler, it does not require air to operate. All other parts of the submarine are the same as any steam-powered turbine plant’s.

The reactor operates on uranium enriched to nearly 45 per cent (uranium used in civilian nuclear reactors is less than 5 per cent and bombs use uranium enriched to over 90 per cent).

In 1998, L&T began fabricating the hull of ATV but the struggle with the reactor continued. After BARC designs failed, India bought reactor designs from Russia.

By 2004 the reactor had been built, tested on land at the IGCAR and had gone critical. Its modest size, around 6,000 tonne (the Ohio class SSBN in the movie Crimson Tide weighs over 14,000 tonne), has led experts to call it a “baby boomer”. While the present project ends at three units, defence officials have not ruled out building larger submarines on the basis of national strategic imperatives. These have changed since the conception of the project.

The plan, until late ’80s, was to build an SSN—a fast-moving deep-diving nuclear-powered attack submarine, which would hunt surface ships.

Around the time India leased a Charlie-I class nuclear-powered attack submarine from the Soviet Union, it had already veered towards building a submarine carrying ballistic missiles. The hull design was lengthened and the SSN quietly transformed into an SSBN. There are, however, some key challenges to be overcome. ATV’s SLBMs have a range of only 750 km, a big leap from its start of 250 km a decade ago, but still smaller than the SLBMs deployed by the Big Five, which boast ranges in excess of 5,000 km. DRDO is working on fielding a submarine launched variant of the 5,000-km Agni III missile, which will give the submarine true striking power and flexibility.

Scientists believe the submarine’s present reactor output of around 80 MW is limited because it imposes operational restrictions on the submarine’s speed and will mean that the reactor will have to function near peak power at most times.

The reactor would also need constant refuelling— a fairly expensive process where the hull is cut open and the nuclear cores replaced every decade. For the moment, however, the immediate challenge lies in successfully sending the submarine out to the sea.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Russia
KEYWORDS: china; cowbrainedcomments; india; indianmilitary; indianukes; nuclear; submarine
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To: charles m

“Wiped out,” my ass. Buddhism was widespread in India, but the reason for its downfall was Hindu revivalism, and the emergence of the Bhakti movement. Read up sometime.

41 posted on 01/19/2008 12:17:14 PM PST by CarrotAndStick (The articles posted by me needn't necessarily reflect my opinion.)
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To: bert

Thanks Bert.

42 posted on 01/19/2008 12:33:20 PM PST by DoughtyOne (< fence >< sound immigration policies >< /weasles >< /RINOs >< /Reagan wannabees that are liberal >)
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To: charles m

You got your history wrong, then you got your geography wrong then you got your current day world demographics wrong.

And then you think you’re fit enough to post your view out here. Do you believe in your own postings or are they sent to you by your CCP propaganda division?

43 posted on 01/19/2008 9:26:25 PM PST by MimirsWell
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To: charles m; Arjun
Buddhism originated in present day north pakistan near the Chinese border. The only Buddhists in India today are the Tibetans and the ethnic Burmese. buddhism was essentially wiped out by the muslims and hindus in India and Pakistan.

that's not quite correct

First point: "Buddhism originated in present day north pakistan near the Chinese border" --> Siddhartha was born in Lumbini[1]and raised in the small kingdom or principality of Kapilvastu, both of which are in modern day Nepal. Culturally, these can be considered part of the broader region of Ancient India.[6]

Buddhism arose in Ancient India, influenced by and building on the tradition of Hinduism and Jainism

Your second point: "The only Buddhists in India today are the Tibetans and the ethnic Burmese" is wrong --> Buddhism declined and disappeared from most regions of India around the 13th century, but not without leaving a significant impact. Buddhist practice continued in Himalayan areas like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. It has reemerged as a major faith in India in the past century.

Your last point: "buddhism was essentially wiped out by the muslims and hindus in India and Pakistan" is partially accurate -- Hinduism re-replaced Buddhism in the gangetic basin, yes, but Buddhism continues in what is now north-eastern india and in sri lanka (which was part of ancient India). It has revived, as per current Indian demographics, the Buddhists comprise 1.1% of present India's population: viz. about 12 million people.
44 posted on 01/19/2008 11:25:56 PM PST by Cronos ("Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant" - Omar Ahmed, CAIR)
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To: MimirsWell; CarrotAndStick; charles m
come on MW, Carrot, have some patience. India is a pretty complex place with over 5000 years of continuous history and civilisation. Most Westerners think of a fat, smiling Chinese guy when they think of the Buddha, and they also think that the Chinese invented Martial arts. Well, you can't blame them, but can be a little patient in explaining the facts.

Furthermore, Indic religions are as complex as India -- can you really define what is Hinduism? Sanatan Dharma? By some groups it's a narrow definition of beliefs, by others it includes Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs and by some others it's more cultural than religious. Hinduism survives because of it's plurality. India survives because of it's glorious messiness --> can you imagine a dictator like Mushie starting up a regime in INdia?

That would never happen -- even if the guy was a Hindu, most likely he'd be a UPite and the south and west would boot him out. No, India is complex and takes time and patience to understand, so be less brutal with folks who made honest (I hope) mistakes
45 posted on 01/19/2008 11:32:31 PM PST by Cronos ("Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant" - Omar Ahmed, CAIR)
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Don’t forget that the Chicoms get their technology from the Yankees too!

Communists can’t create; only people in a free enterprise system worrying about feeding their family and getting ahead create.

46 posted on 01/20/2008 1:15:30 AM PST by Herakles (Diversity is code word for anti-white racism)
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To: Cronos
“By “rag heads”, you mean Arabs?”

You really should know better than to ask that! They all look the same to me, not to mention they all have sex with goats.

47 posted on 01/20/2008 1:29:35 AM PST by Herakles (Diversity is code word for anti-white racism)
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To: Stonewall Jackson

Here’s an old article I got a few years ago-


The ATV Saga
By Prasun K Sengupta

1 ) The first functional ATV will be launched by 2007 , It will be an SSGN and displacing some 6,500 tonnes and will be a derivative of Russia’s new Severodvinsk-class(yasen) SSGN.

2 ) The ATV will be a multirole platform and will be employed for carrying out long-distance interdiction and surveillance of both submerged targets as well as principal surface combatants, It will also facilitate Special Forces operations by covertly landing such forces ashore.

3 ) The ATV pressure hull will be fabricated with the HY-80 steel(sourced from Russia) as much experience was gained under the direction of P.C. Deb the then director of Naval Chemical and Metallurgical Laboratory.

4 ) The Project 670A Skat (Charlie-1 class ) was discarded by early 1990 in favor of a derived design from Yasen.Three countries are actively supplying the related technologies and weapons system off the shelf for the projected ATV fleet Russia , France and Israel.

5 ) The Prime minister heads the Steering and Funding Committee of the project which is monitored by the scientific adviser to the defence minister and DRDO chief currently Dr. V.K. Aatre , The ATV project Director is Vice Admiral D.S.P Varma , here are Six naval officers of the rank of rear admiral who runs the various segments of the programme such as weapons system, platform management system, combat management system, acoustic signature management and sonars, Integrated powerplant/Propulsion system and communication/electronic warfare while two other rear admirals head the two large ,state-owned manufacturing facilities.

6 ) One such facility is in Hyderabad to collaborate with the DRDO lab, BHEL for nuclear powerplants heat exchanger system and Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd for special steel requirements , The second is a large ship building facility tucked behind High walls and barbed wires with a dry dock and boilers, at Vishakapatnam where the first ATV hull is being fabricated. with imported HY-80 steel.

7 ) In addition the Navy has Russian designed facility - The Special safety Service - at Vishakapatnam that can monitor the health of people working on the SSGN and the radiation leaks emanating from the vessel .there is also a small complex at Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic research at Kalpakkam near Chennai.

8 ) The Two 90-megawatt pressurised water reactors (PWR) procured from Russia four years ago are dynamically tested both onshore and offshore.One of them will eventually be sealed into a 600-tonne titanium shell of about 10m in diameter that will be lowered into the ATV pressure hull in what will be a critical operation.

9 ) To support the project , several national universities and both public and private sector manufacturing companies have been employed on an ad hoc basis, including Larsen and Toubro Ltd for designing and fabricating the power plant modules, MDL for building the propulsion system modules , BEL for the platform sensors and communications system, TCS for integration of ATV combat and platform management system, which will be imported from Armaris of France and be identical to those installed on the 12 Scorpene-class diesel electric submarine (SSK) the navy plans to acquire in the future. Russian assistance has been substantial by way of off-the-shelf supply of the main reactors plus related structural parts and overall design inputs.

10 ) The ATV will feature double-hull construction ,dramatically increasing the reserve buoyancy by as much as three times over that of a single-hull vessel.Ballast tanks and other gear will be located between the inner and outer hulls and limber holes will be provided for the free-flooding sections between the hulls. The ATV pressure hull will have seven compartment and the standoff distance between the outer and inner hulls will be considerable,reducing the possibility of inner hull damage . The retractable masts viewed from bow to stern will include an optronic periscope , one surface search navigation radar and one low level air defence radar, radio and satellite communication antennae,plus one integrated electronic warfare suite. The ATV pressure hull will be rated for a diving depth to 600m , The SSGN will carry sufficient supplies for an endurance of 100 days and will be operated by a crew compliment of 70 , The outer hull’s anechoic and vibration damping coatings along with other advanced quitening techniques will be supplied off the shelf by Russia. Present plans call for producing an initial two ATV with a projected fleet strength of five by 2025.


11 ) Initally navy planners wanted to design the ATV as a near-exact replica of the Project 670A Skat SSGN , but with a BARC designed and built PWR for propulsion , Three different types of indigenous reactor design were considered.A water-cooled water moderated reactor was designed by BARC and its core had 248-252 fuel assemblies. The fuel was uranium-aluminium-dispersed fuel (cermet) in steel or zirconium cladding. However the first design was rejected in late 1976, The second in 1979 and third in 1981. Despite this BARC succeeded in fabricating a pilot PWR in the early 1990, In late December 1995 it was reported that the DRDO had made considerable progress in the design of a pre-test capsule (PTC) of titanium steel, fabricated in 1994 by L&T at hazira in Gujarat.from there it was transferred to Kalpakkam , the PTC containing the BARC-built pilot PWR was to be have been installed in the ATV final shell, and had a hull dia of 10 meter, Both the PTC and the pilot PWR were unsuccessfully tested at Kalpakkam in Nov-Dec 1995, failures were caused by several integration and fabrication problems , In June 1996 the programme reportedly suffered further setbacks following additional failed tests of PWR. Problems in fabricating the containment vessel also occurred.

12 ) On 5 October 2000 after India and Russia inked an agreement on a news blackout on sensitive information exchanges in the area of defense and nuclear co-operation and appointed watchdogs to enforce compliance with the new agreement.Moscow agreed to supply an initial two VM-5 PWR and related propulsion and machinery off-the shelf, These arrived at Vishakapatnam in late 2000.The ATV will have double layer silencing system for the power train , The main propulsion machinery will consist of VM-5, with an OK-650b high density reactor core rated at 90mWand a GT3A turbine developing 35mW , Two auxiliary diesels rated at 750hp will provide emergency power,the nuclear propulsion system will drive a sever-blade fixed- pitch propeller and provide a maximum submerged speed of 33 knots and a surface speed of 10 knots , A reserve propeller system, powered by two motors rated at 370kw, will provide a speed of 4 knots.

13 ) The PWR fuel will be uranium-aluminum dispersed fuel (cermet) in steel or zirconium cladding, The main challenge faced for the design of certain safety features in submarine nuclear reactors is the design of control rods insertion and withdrawal mechanism.Throughout 1980, India tried in vain to buy a rod worth minimiser (RWM) used by reactor operators to guide and monitor the proper sequence for the withdrawal and insertion of control rods, The control rod technology for use with the RWM has since been developed indigenously.


14 ) The ATV will pack quite a punch with six torpedo tubes of 533mm diameter , which will be able to fire wake-homing , acoustic , and high-speed wire guided torpedoes reportedly the Russian TEST-71MKE and TEST-71ME-NK model and the Franco-Italian Black Shark, along with eight vertically launched missiles launched under water from launcher cells mounted aft of the SSGN conning tower, The principal conventional offensive armament of the ATV will comprise up to 12 3M-14E subsonic cruise missile for both antiship strikes and land attack developed by Russia’s Ekaterinburg-based Novator Experimental Machine Design Bureau. equipped with a active radar seeker developed by ST Petersburg-based Radar-MMS the 3M-14E will be fired from the ATV’s 533mm torpedo tubes and have a range of 275 km , The missile incidentally was first unveiled in New Delhi at the Defexpo-2004 early last february.

15 ) The ATV will also have the ability to carry up to eight ready to launch vertically launched “Strategic” cruise missile each with a range of 800 Km that will be armed with nuclear warhead, Although DRDO’s ADE and DARE have since 1990 been trying to develop such a cruse missile called “SAGARIKA” it was decided in November-2003 that the ADE and DARE would co-developwith RAFAEL of Israel such a cruise missile and its vertical launched canister,inertial guidance, launch-control and solid-fuel rocket booster systems.The miniaturized nuclear warhead for the missile will however be developed solely by BARC and DRDO. The nuclear-tipped missile will be kept disassembled on-shore in peacetime and be deployed on the ATV only during “extreme national emergencies”


16 ) The ATV combat management system (CMS) will be a derivative of the SUBTICS system, developed by ARMARIS for the Scorpene class SSK, The periscope with an optronic mast will be supplied by SAGEM of France.The Mid/LOW Frequency active/passive sonar suite is now being developed by DRDO under its “PANCHENDRIYA” programme, The definative sonar model called “ USHUS” is being developed by DRDO’s Kochis- based NPOL and will be series produced by state owned BEL, Underwater Omnidirectional transducers have been developed by DRDO’s Pune based ARDE , The transducers are 60mm hollow spherical elements fabricated from lead zirconate titanate type-4 material. The integrated electronic warfare system of Israels 4CH(V)2 TIMNEX II while Elta electronics will provide the I-Band surface search radar. The ATV VLF communication suite will be built by BEL.

An Interim Solution

17 ) For training the first type rated crew for manning the first ATV , the navy has decided to lease for a three-year period from Rosoboronexport FSUE and at a cost of US300 Million , One project 971A (Shuka-B) or Akula-II class SSGN . This SSGN will be 110m long and displace upto 12,770 tonnes, It will have a maximum speed of 35 knots submerged with a maximum diving depth of 600m, The leased SSGN will be armed with TEST-71ME-NK and TEST -71MKE electric remote control homing torpedoes plus the KALIBRPLE weapon system and will include 12 3M-14E and Novtar built 3m54E Klub-S supersonic anti-ship missile , These missile will be launched from the SSGN six 533mm launch tubes . A 250 strong group of navy personnel has been undergoing type conversion on an Akula II class SSGN at Komsomolsk-on-Amur since late last year.

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For more information go to:

Israel may help India in N-sub project

Jerusalem, December 10
Israel has expressed willingness to cooperate with India in its nuclear submarine programme, Israeli defence sources said.

This understanding was reached during the visit of a high-level technical team from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) headed by the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, Dr V.K. Aatre, towards the end of last month, the sources said.

The development could possibly mean an end to Indo-Russian cooperation in this field as Israel rapidly progresses towards becoming India’s main source for defence procurements. India had leased for three years a Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine, INS Chakra in 1988, but returned it after the expiry of the lease. It had in 2000 announced new negotiations with Russia. — UNI

48 posted on 01/20/2008 9:01:08 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Thanks for the info.

It looks like the Indian Navy has been carefully studying this project for a number of years, making sure that they pick the best systems for their submarine, and are now ready to proceed to the construction phase.

49 posted on 01/20/2008 7:21:07 PM PST by Stonewall Jackson (The Hunt for FRed November. 11/04/08)
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To: Stonewall Jackson

Make that best available systems!!Folks don’t part with tech for N-subs easily.I won’t vouch for the accuracy of any of these articles,but it would be sensible to say that India’s N-sub will be a rather modest but capable effort given that the IN has got support or promise for support(Russia,France/Britain,Israel).

50 posted on 01/20/2008 8:44:18 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
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To: Doohickey
51 posted on 01/20/2008 8:49:03 PM PST by BIGLOOK (Keelhaul politicians. The Ship of State needs a good scrubbing!)
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