India will join the US, Russia and China, the only three countries to have fully operational nuclear weapon triads, with the capability to fire nuclear-tipped missiles from land, air and sea by 2012.

Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the triad will be complete when the country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, is commissioned by early 2012.

“When INS Arihant goes to sea, it will be on a deterrent patrol (read armed with nucelar-tipped missiles). The triad will then be in place and the aim is to
make it as effective as possible,” Verma said.

The land and air legs are already in place with the Agni family of road and rail-mobile ballistic missiles as well as fighter jets like Mirage-2000s and Sukhoi-30MKIs jury, which are rigged to deliver nuclear weapons.

INS Arihant will be followed by another two nuclear submarines under the secretive INR30,000cr ($6.6bn) Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project, according to The Times of India.

The 12,000t K-152 Nerpa submarine, armed with torpedoes and 300km Klub-S cruise missiles, will also be inducted on a ten-year lease from Russia in April-May 2011.

India has 15 conventional and ageing diesel-electric submarines, compared with China’s 62 submarine fleet including ten nuclear submarines.