Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) is one of the most vital sectors for India and the Indian Navy has established an “unmanned road map” to maximise the potential of unmanned technologies and systems.
In October 2021, the defence minister Rajnath Singh had unveiled a roadmap on Unmanned Systems, and this year at the recent surveillance seminar, the navy has also unveiled the requirements for the future unmanned systems.
On Dec 3, 21022, in response to a media query, the Chief of the Indian Navy Admiral R Hari Kumar had said that the technology the Navy is looking for has been shared with the industry. The navy is looking at unmanned not just aircraft but underwater vessels too. These Unmanned combat aerial vehicles and surface resolution underwater vehicles to carry out not just surveillance but missions including combat.
Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), sometimes known as underwater drones, are underwater vehicles that can operate without human assistance or intervention. These robots can be categorised as remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs) or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are highly automated and operate independently, whilst Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROUVs) are remotely operated by a human operator. Frequently, vehicles in the second group are classified as unmanned vehicles.
The finding of ‘Chinese-origin’ autonomous underwater gliders in Indonesian waters demonstrates the extent to which China is utilising undersea technologies for military gain.
In the past few years, it was determined that Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) would reduce the need for minesweepers. And “while the industry developed UUVs for military uses, compatibility with current manned platforms must be considered a crucial deliverable,” explained a senior Indian Navy officer.
Former Vice Admiral Ashok Kumar had outlined four categories of UUVs: man-portable Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles (AUVs) with swarm functionality and an endurance of 10 to 20 hours, lightweight AUVs compatible with the existing lightweight torpedo tubes onboard ships and endurance of approximately two days, heavyweight AUVs compatible with the current heavyweight tubes and an endurance of the order of 3 to 4 days, and high endurance AUVs with the capability to submerge for at least 15 days.
India’s UUV Efforts
Larsen and Toubro (L&T) once again displayed its autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) at the defence exhibition, which was the frontrunner in the Navy’s bid to acquire ten tube-launched AUVs. L&T’s Adamya AUV may be launched from submarines with 533mm torpedo tubes. Those with operational endurance exceeding eight hours.
The Adamya AUV which is five meters long and very heavy may be launched from a submarine torpedo tube without requiring additional modifications to the submarine. It can also be launched from surface ships using the included launch and recovery systems.
Based on the information available in the public domain, L&T has claimed that the Adamya’s underwater endurance is greater than eight hours at approximately four knots, which can descend up to 500 metres. The operating payload of numerous systems can be tailored to the user’s specifications.
L&T is developing several Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and during the DefExpo of 2020, it presented the Amogh, Adamya, and Maya AUVs.
DRDO’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ULUAV)
The primary objective of the proposed project is to design and develop technologies for launching Unmanned Aerial Vehicles from NATO-standard Torpedo Tubes of submerged undersea platforms. The underwater platform is up to 50 metres deep. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be expelled and launched from the canister using a pyro cartridge or similar mechanism that ensures launch-ready conditions. The canister has a maximum diameter of 533mm. The state is determined by the roll and pitch data received by the sensor. The mission of the Underwater Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ULUAV) is controlled in accordance with the mission profile transmitted via a data connection to the Control station. After mission completion, the Underwater Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ULUAV) will use a single-point recovery mechanism to return to the onboard position or a partner platform. ULUAV is primarily used for ISR operations, real-time target tracking, beach reconnaissance prior to the conduct of special operations, and enhancing marine domain awareness.
The ULUAV will be outfitted with the ISR payload, sensors, and algorithms that will increase its capabilities. Also, the Ground Station would play a crucial role in transferring the necessary information between the submarine and the surface.
Also, after completing the assigned duty, the drone must recover safely, either by landing on the partner platform using the One-point recovery method or by using a flotation bag.
XLUUV is a concept developed by India’s premier submarine manufacturer, Mazagon Dock (MDL). XLUUV is designed to accomplish tasks such as payload deployment, periodic communication, pre-programmed mission execution, and return to base. The internal and external cargo capacities are meant to be reconfigurable based on mission-specific requirements. The spatial advantage achieved permits it to have a greater energy capacity through a large number of energy modules, allowing for longer loitering periods, often a few months, and is thus a more cost-effective, mission-capable solution than the conventional assortment of UUVs.
Indian Navy begins to search for the UUVs
The Navy is open to both indigenous and foreign AUVs, according to sources, but senior officials are aware that it will take “a long time” for Indian-made underwater drones to be available for military use. The Indian UAV sector, which is still in its infancy, has already taken the initial steps toward achieving the Navy’s goals.
Until indigenous capabilities are established, foreign-made underwater drones will likely be deployed. However, the ultimate objective is to initially launch these AUVs from submarines for monitoring. If necessary, these AUVs will be utilised for military strikes in the future.