The base will become the home of India’s fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile and attack submarines and will be the most strategically important naval base in the country. It is in Rambili, a village in Andhra Pradesh, India, about 50 km from Visakhapatnam. The base will house facilities for both the repair and maintenance of nuclear reactors, as well as storage for nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Therefore, the base is located conveniently close (20 kilometers) to a nuclear facility of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least four new weapons systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems.
The primary defense and distinguishing feature of the base is that it will have underground pens to hide the submarines from spy satellites and protect them from enemy air attacks. A VLF communications system antenna is also present on the site. The base is under construction as of February 2022 and is nearing completion of Phase-I of its build-up.
The main feature of the strategic submarine base is a mountain (17°25’40″N 82°52’44″E) 172 meters high at its highest point and 3 kilometers long. The mountain will be used to hide the submarines. Major tunneling and waterways are being constructed on at least two different locations on the mountain. These tunnels will be flooded, and submarines will use these water passages to get in and out of the mountain. Significant base expansion has also been seen to the north and west of the mountain. The mountain itself has over 30 separate tunnel entrances and access points, to be secured with hardened blast doors. Piers are also being constructed on three different locations near the mountain pointing to the fact that the base will house surface combatants as well. The Indians intend to keep their nuclear submarines inside the mountain when they are not on deployment. We assume all submarine replenishment, support and maintenance facilities will be inside the mountain, to protect them from attack by aircraft and missiles. As of February 2022, the mountain’s waterway tunnels have not been flooded and are under construction. The base would likely be able to withstand a nuclear strike as well. We do not expect the base to be operationalized before 2025-2026.
- Pictorial Brief Overview of INS Varsha Naval Base