Generally, when someone leaves a vehicle door open, it causes a problem but not a fatal one. Traditionally, a parent, restaurant manager, or irate stranger gives a lecture about responsibility, and that’s the end of it. In the worst-case scenario, a lucky thief happens upon the unsecured vehicle and gets a free automobile.
However, the situation becomes much more severe when the vehicle in question is a $3 billion nuclear-powered submarine.
The Indian Navy suffered a major blow in 2017 when its new submarine, the INS Arihant, incurred significant damage. In production for years, the vessel was intended to be the flagship of India’s forthcoming submersible fleet.
Due to what Navy officials characterized as “human error,” India’s $2.9 billion Russian-designed, indigenously built sub spent ten months on ice. In addition to cleaning up the vessel’s propulsion compartment, maintenance specialists needed to replace much of its corroded coolant system.
The Hindu Times recently reported why the Arihant was out of action for nearly a year. While it was docked, a profoundly hapless seaman forgot to close one of the submarine’s hatches. As absurd as it sounds, a single unsecured hatch significantly disrupted India’s entire national security apparatus.
Even before its tragicomic encounter with human fallibility, the Arihant had a DC Cinematic Universe-style development process. India plotted the creation of an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine in 1985. In 2009, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh christened the new vessel in a private ceremony.
The Indian military planned for the ship to be operational by 2011. However, its forecasts proved to be wildly optimistic.
Naval authorities spent the next seven years putting the Arihant through extensive testing. In 2016, current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally commissioned the sub. By that time, the Indian government spent ₹14,000 crore ($2.9 billion) getting the military craft operational. The Hindu reports New Delhi only intended to spend ₹3,000 crore ($600,000,000) on its first three nuclear subs.
Sadly, none of the Arihant’s designers thought to include a “Please close after exiting” sign on its hatches.
A Happy Ending, Sort Of
Despite overcoming a three-decade development process, staggering budget overruns, and a hatch-related catastrophe, the INS Arihant is finally operational. In November 2018, the vessel completed its first ever patrol and thankfully did not get stuck in a whirlpool. To commemorate the submarine’s inaugural voyage, Prime Minister Modi tweeted it will, “contribute to the atmosphere of peace in the region.”
While Modi’s sentiment is sweet, his words don’t exactly align with the submersible’s purpose. The vessel has a full complement of Russian-made short and long-range nuclear missiles.
Also, the Indian government publicized the sub’s first patrol to let the world know it now has land, air, and sea atomic launch capabilities. As such, the fact that the submarine’s crew sometimes forgets to lock it up properly is chilling.
Nevertheless, there is one good thing about Arihant’s surreal brush with destruction. It will likely inspire Sacha Baron Cohen or Armando Iannucci to make a hilarious movie in a few years.