Sunday 18 November 2018, 03:39 AM
Strengthening India’s Submarine Arm
By BDK Bureau | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 2/16/2018 3:40:50 PM
Strengthening India’s Submarine Arm

Three major developments have happened on India’s conventional submarine progress in the past few weeks.  

First: Is the commissioning of the conventional ( diesel-electric powered) submarine, named ‘Kalvari’ -- meaning deep sea tiger shark. Prime Minister Narendra  Modi  did the honours at Mumbai on December 14. This is the first diesel-electric submarine to be made under the submarine action plan was announced in 1999 for having 24 modern submarines by 2030. The Kalvari is part of the six scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines being built by Mazagon Docks Limited, a Ministry of Defence-owned company, in collaboration with France’s Naval Group (earlier known as DCNS).  The submarine would be equipped with anti-ship missiles and long-range guided torpedoes along with a modern sensor suite.

Second:  is the progress on having air independent propulsion (AIP) technology for all the six Scorpene submarines. This will be fitted during the time these submarines are due for refit and overhaul some six years from now.The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) is in the process of developing an AIP  in association with the Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL). Two separate fuel cells for AIP operation were being developed at the centre. One incorporates a phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC), another has a polymer electrolyte fuel cell. The NMRL  has transferred the PAFC technology to Thermax Ltd in Pune for further production.

The AIP would provide endurance, stealth and silence, much needed by submarines to remain submerged longer.  AIP allows a submarine to run its electric motor and other electrical systems without using the batteries. It reduces the frequency with which the submarine has to surface to suck in air for the diesel engines to recharge the batteries.However, fitting it on to the Scorpene at a later stage would be a costly process as the hull of the submarine has to be opened up to integrate the AIP module and then sealed before being put through the entire range of tests and trials to validate its performance. An AIP module  was supposed to have been installed on the last two submarines before they rolled out of the production line. However, the module did not materialise due to delays in development. 

Third: Is the project 75-I. The Navy and the Ministry of Defence are now be studying the bids made by four major global players -- Naval Group-DCNS of France, Russia's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Rosoboronexport Rubin Design Bureau and Saab Kockums from Sweden.These four have responded to the initial request for information (RFI) of the Indian Navy for Project-75-I, a stealth submarine programme  for  approximately Rs 70,000 crore.  This will be with land-attack cruise missile, air-independent propulsion with a capacity to combine indigenous weapons and sensors.This will be under the newly announced strategic partnership, which allows foreign companies to partner with Indian firms under the “Make in India” initiative. Making submarines here is one of the four targeted sectors, the other three being fighter jets, helicopters and tanks.The Japanese Mitsubishi-Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Spanish Navantia have failed to respond to  the RFI. 

The worry: For Naval planners, the worrisome part, however, is that China’s submarine fleet—nuclear and conventionally powered—is four times that of India’s.The Indian battle-ready under-sea fleet of diesel electric vessels is at present down to 14: nine Kilo-class (EKMs), four German-designed HDWs (SSKs) and one Akula class nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) on a 10-year lease from Russia (since 2012).In comparison, China is rapidly expanding its submarine fleet. The US Department of Defence, in its annual report to the US Congress, has spelt out the rise of China’s submarine fleet.The report, “Military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2017”, says: “The People’s Liberation Army Navy places a high priority on the modernisation of its submarine force and presently possesses 63 vessels. By 2020, this force will likely grow to between 69 and 78 submarines.”

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Strengthening,India’s,Submarine,AIP,DRDO,commissioning,silence

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