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It is a crucial step that will considerably increase the endurance of the Indian Navy’s Scorpene-class conventional submarines.

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Naval Group have agreed to quickly instal the domestic fuel cell-based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system on INS Kalvari, which is a significant step that will significantly increase the endurance of the Scorpene-class conventional submarines of the Indian Navy.

The DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) has created the AIP and tested the land-based version.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar with other dignitaries at the commissioning ceremony of Indian Navy’s fifth stealth Scorpene class Submarine INS Vagir into the Indian Navy

“This new endeavour between the DRDO and Naval Group France will be a very significant step towards the detailed design certification of the energy module, which will be performed by the NMRL along with Indian industry and design of the platforms impacted by the integration of the indigenous AIP inside the Indian submarine by Naval Group,” the DRDO said in a statement. “These actions will seamlessly lead the way to start of localisation and industrialisation of AIP, including the hull fabrication by the Indian industry for future fitment on board the submarines.”

The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the project in March 2022, according to defence sources. Following the sanction and a Detailed Design Phase, the DRDO has started tendering for various equipment, officials said. The AIP is planned to be installed on the first Scorpene class submarine INS Kalvari when it goes for first refit in 2024, as reported by The Hindu earlier.

An AIP module acts as a force multiplier as it enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer duration thereby increasing their endurance and reducing chances of detection.

The DRDO stated earlier that the fuel cell-based AIP being developed is unique since the hydrogen is produced onboard and has advantages in performance compared to other technologies. This is true even though several types of AIP systems are being explored internationally. “The NMRL successfully developed this technology with the assistance of Indian industry partners. The technology has now matured enough for industrialization, according to the DRDO.

Speaking at the event in Mumbai, Pierre Eric Pommellet, Chairman & CEO of Naval Group, said, “We are very proud to cooperate with Indian stakeholders to safely integrate the DRDO AIP in the Kalvari class submarines built by the MDL. This is a natural extension of strategic bilateral cooperation shared between France and India in the field of underwater defence and deterrence and in spirit of Naval Group’s continued commitment towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat policy.”

Six Scorpene submarines are being built under Project-75 by the MDL under technology transfer from Naval Group of France under a $3.75 billion deal signed in October 2005. The project is about four years behind schedule. The first submarine INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, the second one INS Khanderi in September 2019, third INS Karanj in March 2021 and the fourth INS Vela joined service in November 2021.

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