Scorpene submarines to miss air independent propulsion system

  • IANS, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 18, 2016 22:26 IST
Employees stand in front of the Indian Navy's first Scorpene submarine before being undocked from Mazagon Docks in Mumbai. (Reuters File Photo)

The Indian Navy on Tuesday said it is not looking at including the indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system in the last two Scorpene submarines, and it could be added later during retrofit.

Vice Admiral GS Pabby, controller of warship production and acquisition, Indian Navy, said the project is progressing well, but will not be included in the Scorpenes.

“AIP is progressing very well, it is progressing on schedule and I think it will be ready well before requirement,” Pabby said.

“For the Scorpene class, we are not looking at five and six. We will do it as a retrofit if we have to do it,” he said.

The indigenous AIP, being developed by Maharashtra-based Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL), is a fuel cell replacing diesel in the conventional submarines.

Initially, the Navy was looking at fitting at least two of the six Scorpene submarines with the system. Later, officials had said they expected to fit the system in at least the last of the boats as the programme got delayed.

With this system, a conventional submarine that needs to surface every three to four days for oxygen, can stay under water for up to two weeks.

Developing this technology is costing India around Rs 50,000 crore.

The system, which is based on a fuel cell, converts methanol like substances to produce hydrogen, which is the fuel that runs the cell in producing electricity.

While diesel engines need oxygen to function, these cells are air independent. It also makes lesser noise, increasing its stealth, the most critical feature of a submarine.

Conventional submarines with the Indian Navy fleet lack this critical technology.

On the other hand, submarines of the Pakistani Navy, mostly procured from France, are equipped with the AIP.

In 2005, India purchased six Scorpene submarines for $3 billion.

These submarines are being manufactured under a technology transfer agreement by the state-owned Mazagon Docks in Mumbai in collaboration with French group DCNS.

The submarines were initially to be delivered between 2012 and 2016. However, the project is running almost four years behind schedule, and the first of the six Scorpene submarines, named INS Kalvari, is currently undergoing sea trials.

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