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India achieves major milestone in submarine propulsion technology

The first indigenously built Scorpene class submarine Kalvari undertook it's first torpedo firing on 26 May 2017. (Indian Navy/Released)
March 13, 2021

On Monday, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) achieved a crucial developmental stage in a fuel cell based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System during User Specific Tests.

On March 8, DRDO presented a land-based prototype in the field of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems. The system is developed by the Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of the DRDO and was tested in an environment necessary for analyzing endurance and maximum power mode functional ability in a given set of parameters. DRDO released a statement through government press announcing the success of the developmental run of the system.

The indigenously-designed AIP showed high performance-based positive results during the run and DRDO scientists are assured they will fit on the Indian Navy’s Kalvari Class conventional submarine. Cell-based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) installed on a diesel-electric submarine increases the underwater endurance of a boat significantly, as it noticeably increases the submerging capabilities of the boat by three to four times, depending upon the system. Fuel cell-based AIP has the upper-hand in performance in comparison to other technologies.
DRDO’s AIP is fuel cell-based, which requires hydrogen for its operations. Hydrogen can easily be produced on the vessel thanks to a corrosive effect on the system that gets reduced and consolidates with the Deepwater operations effectively for a longer period of time.
Apart from NRML, DRDO has also partnered with companies like L&T and Thermax for industrial support for the project. The system has almost reached its final stage and will soon be equipped with the pre-planned boats, especially on Project 75 and upcoming Project 75i submarines.

India has its own plan to develop conventionally powered submarines, but shipyards around the country are busy with other projects. The Indian Navy has shown trust in foreign acquisition for SSK boats while focusing on nuclear submarine development in few major shipyards.
With this major milestone, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has lauded and admired DRDO and their team with a commitment by the Indian Navy and other industries for their tireless efforts and encouraged them on future endeavors.
Dr. G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary of DDR&D and Chairman of DRDO, congratulated the scientists and gestured proudly towards the teams involved in the project.

Over the next two years, DRDO plans to push for the operational trial of the system on one of the operating submarines. With all given parameters achieved, India will be counted in a selected few nations who possess such critical marine technology for submarines.