One more technological development is killed for foreign tender
In a recently cleared Rs 50,000 crore project to build six new conventional powered submarines for the Indian Navy, it is reported that the boats shall not feature the much-talked-about indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system made by DRDO, according to criteria specified in the tender. The AIP system allows prolonged underwater stay, attaining stealth profiles for long durations.
The indigenous AIP system is presently in development by the state-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). According to ANI, the Indian Navy wants to evaluate the system with proper trials before integrating them on any platform. Indian Navy reportedly wants its fleet of Scorpene-Class submarines to be fitted with indigenous AIP during the refitting programmes after completion of the system.
“The Defence Research and Development Organisation is pushing for the inclusion of their under-development AIP on the P-75 India but it has not yet been included in the tender,” sources told ANI.
Developed by the Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of DRDO with the support of industry partners L&T and Thermax, the AIP system was operated in endurance mode for 14 days and maximum power mode for two days. The 270 Kilowatt fuel cell-based AIP system will begin to be fitted on the Scorpene submarines by the end 2021.
“Project 75I”, cleared by Defence Acquisition Council in 2021 headed by Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh. The project includes the acquisition of 6 diesel-electric submarines for Indian Navy, which will be built within India but via foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) collaborating with Indian shipyards, either Larsen & Toubro (L&T) or Mazagon Dockyards Ltd.
The entire time frame for finalisation of the project is expected to be at least 1-2 years from now. 5 Foreign companies, which are ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Rubin Design Bureau (Russia), Navantia (Spain), Naval Group (France) and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (South Korea) are primary contenders for submarines.
It is indeed saddening that despite having its own AIP system in-development, the Indian attitude towards indigenisation still lacks, pushing the country’s dream of self-dependence to become a facade. Although the Navy’s arguments over the reliability of a system in the developing stage are undeniable, the Indian government could have hastened the process of AIP development.