India’s defence establishment will be fully responsible for a DRDO-developed critical propulsion system that will go into the last two of the six Scorpene submarines being built under technology transfer at Mazagon Dock, Mumbai, say the original makers of the submarine.
The system, called air-independent propulsion (AIP), enhances the underwater endurance of conventional (diesel-electric) submarines. Without it, they are forced to surface to periscope depth to recharge their batteries — a position where they are most susceptible to detection — at more frequent intervals.
The French defence shipbuilding major DCNS has put its own second-generation hydrogen fuel cell AIP system on the block. It maintains that the DRDO will be “fully responsible for the process” of the AIP it is developing for fitment on the submarines.
Refusing to entertain queries on the performance parameters and safety of the DRDO’s phosphoric acid fuel cell AIP, which sources told The Hindu would be ready for trials next February, Philippe Berger, former submariner and submarines operational marketing manager of DCNS, said while the company’s first-generation Mesma AIP, powering Pakistan’s Agosta 90B submarines, offered a dived endurance of two weeks, its advanced fuel cell AIP enhanced it to three weeks. “Without AIP, Scorpenes can stay underwater for four days,” he said. “Our scheme is limited to integrating safely the DRDO-developed AIP plug to the submarine. We are working on designing the hull section in detail for this,” Mr. Berger told Indian journalists at the DCNS facility, which houses the “fully tested operational-scale fuel cell AIP.”