Will the DRDO make AIP ready by 2023 to be fitted on Kalvari Class submarines? Know more

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Updated: Mar 09, 2021 7:37 PM

“Compared to the AIP systems being used by other navies internationally, the fuel cell-based AIP of NMRL is unique as the hydrogen is generated onboard. This technology has been developed with the support of industry partners including L&T and Thermax,” says the official statement.

Though the test carried out is land based, the DRDO states that the system has reached the stage of maturity for fitment into target vessels. (Credit: DRDO)

The Fuel Cell based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System of the Defence Research and Development Organisation has cleared another level of testing on Tuesday (March 9, 2021). An official statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has stated that land-based prototype has crossed another milestone in user specific tests on March 8, 2021. According to the statement, the system being developed by Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of DRDO, as per the user requirements, was operated in endurance mode and max power mode. As has been reported earlier the AIP is considered critical for the Kalvari class submarines, as it makes the diesel electric submarine more lethal as they can remain submerged for longer duration. And, according to DRDO the Fuel cell-based AIP has merits in performance compared to other technologies. It uses hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity and has almost no moving parts (this helps in making them quieter) and produces minimal waste.

“Compared to the AIP systems being used by other navies internationally, the fuel cell-based AIP of NMRL is unique as the hydrogen is generated onboard. This technology has been developed with the support of industry partners including L&T and Thermax,” says the official statement.

Though the test carried out is land based, the DRDO states that the system has reached the stage of maturity for fitment into target vessels.

Importance of AIP

With an AIP system onboard, the submarine will have the potential to run its electric propulsion motor and electrical network, bypassing the traditional batteries.

Also Read: Chinese Research Vessels are a security Threat! Is Indian Navy ready to counter them?

For the productionised version of the AIP, the Defence Quality Assurance (QA) could time to put its stamp of approval before 2023.

The Indian Navy has an option to buy either from the Naval Group which is building the Kalvari class submarine along with the Mumbai based MDL or from any other vendors who have this technology on offer meeting all parameters.

In October 2019, as has been reported earlier, the DRDO had announced a major breakthrough in the fuel cell-based AIP system for Indian Naval Submarines after crossing several milestones in technology maturity.

Also Read: Big achievement of DRDO! Success in new propulsion technology AIP for submarines

All the stakeholders in Project 75 are in talks with DRDO for integrating the AIP in the submarines. The first submarine is coming up in 2023 for a retrofit and the plan is to fit it with AIP. “Whether it will be an imported AIP or the Made in India, only time will tell,” a senior officer told Financial Express Online.

The AIP is required on an urgent basis in view of the growing presence of the Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean Region; Pakistan already has acquired submarines fitted with the AIP system from China.

Also Read: Operational air-independent propulsion for Kalvari submarines: A critical technology for underwater stealth

After Land Based Test Site (LBTS) what next?

According to experts, this ashore system version has to be then re-designed before it is ready to be fitted on board the Kalvari class submarine in 2023. The re-designed version then has to undergo trials at sea.

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