In a significant development in the ongoing Scorpene submarine project at the Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL), the first of the six French vessels has been completely constructed and is now undergoing tests within the yard. As per the time-frame set by the Indian Navy and the shipbuilder, the deliveries should begin by September 2015, with one vessel released to the Navy every subsequent year.
According to an official privy to the development, the vessel has finished all “outfitting” of the protruding masts, antennas and the periscope on the “conning tower” and is undergoing checks for checking their functionality. “The piping, wiring and cabling work inside the boat is also done. We will now test all these by simulating underwater conditions where gases and liquids will be pumped through the pipes to see how everything is performing. The team handling the testing bit is working in full swing on this submarine while another team concerned with the internal work is engaged in the wiring and piping works on the other boats,” said the officer. Officials from DCNS of France — the original maker of the Scorpene submarines are also assisting the shipbuilders at MDL.
The Scorpene project, also called Project 75, remains one of the most embarrassingly delayed defence projects ever since it was signed with the French in 2005. With several missed deadlines owing to unforeseen technology and “equipment-related” issues, according to MDL officials, the vessels would still be “insufficient” to meet India’s underwater capabilities by the time all of them reach the Indian Navy by 2020.
This is primarily because the first four of the boats would be without the crucial air independent propulsion (AIP), thus qualifying them as regular “diesel-electric” — a system which has been discontinued by most international navies.
An AIP allows a submarine to remain submerged for weeks on end without the need to surface to recharge its batteries or sending up a “snorkelling pipe” which could give away its position.