The navy is weighing a proposal to modify the under-construction Scorpene submarines to enable the boats to stay underwater for longer periods and enhance their combat capabilities.
It is considering to equip the submarines, being built at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), with an air independent propulsion (AIP) system that can recharge their batteries without having to surface for more than three weeks. Conventional submarines have to surface almost every second day to run their air-breathing diesel engines, running the risk of detection.
Six Scorpene submarines are being built with transfer of technology from French firm DCNS, under a Rs 18,798-crore programme called Project 75. DCNS CEO Patrick Boissier, who is accompanying visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said his company was in talks with the navy to equip the submarines with AIP systems.
Boissier said if a contract were to be placed by next year, AIP systems could be integrated into the fifth and the sixth submarines rolling out of MDL in 2018. The systems can be retrofitted on the first four submarines later under an upgrade programme. The navy is also looking at an indigenous AIP system being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the first Scorpene submarine would enter service in 2015 and the remaining six within a span of three years. The navy was supposed to induct its first Scorpene in 2012, but the project has been delayed due to issues over transfer of technology. The navy is set to collaborate with a foreign manufacturer for six more next-generation submarines under Project 75-India, pegged to be worth Rs 40,000 crore.