A $3 Billion Dollar Sub is Trashed After Someone Forgot to Close a Hatch When Diving

One foreign Navy learned a hard lesson when it comes to operating their nearly $3 billion submarine. While these modern machines are inherently complex, and issues like a loss of propulsion, reactor trouble, or sudden flooding can put lives at risk, none of those problems were in play when the country’s first nuclear submarine was damaged.

The INS Arihant, the first nuclear submarine for the Indian Navy, was built as part of the Advanced Technology Vessel project but has been out of commission for approximately 10 months after experiencing “major damage” caused by “human error,” according to a report by Task and Purpose.

When the vessel was diving, water entered the propulsion compartment and flooded the space. The cause: one of the sub’s external hatches was open.

In February, water “rushed in as a hatch on the rear side was left open by mistake while [the submarine] was at harbor” not long after the Arihant’s launch. Since the incident, the Arihant “has been undergoing repairs and clean up.”

According to a report, “Besides other repair work, many pipes had to be cut open and replaced,” on the nation’s first Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear asset.

The pipe replacement was necessary because of the exposure to seawater, which can be corrosive. This led the Indian Navy not to be able to trust the pipes, particularly those that are responsible for carrying pressurized water coolant to and from the sub’s nuclear reactor.

For the Indian Navy, the error isn’t just embarrassing, but also a strategic concern. The Arihant was a major advancement in India’s capabilities, being capable of firing K-15 short range and K-4 mid-range nuclear missiles, allowing the vessel to act as a deterrent against Pakistan, who also has nuclear capabilities, and perform a role during military standoffs, such as the one between India and China at Doklam.

According to a report by the Hindu, “Arihant is the most important platform within India’s nuclear triad, covering land-air-sea modes.”

The 100 man crew of the Arihant had received comprehensive training as well as hands-on experience on the INS Chakra, a vessel leased from Russia. It isn’t clear how the “human error” occurred.