Navy’s representatives part of Land-based Prototype (LBP) for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System 

The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) developed Air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology after missing several crucial deadlines has finally seemed to be back on track after land-based trials of the AIP Module in its Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) lab at Ambernath was reported progressing smoothly.

As per information coming in, NMRL was able to demonstrate AIP operation for the endurance of 14 days which was monitored by a team deputed from Indian Navy to monitor land-based trials of the AIP Module under simulated underwater condition.

Defence Analysts Ranesh Rajan while speaking on this issue with said: ” Original Equipment Manufactures of AIP System never usually advertise their underwater continuous usage capability but it is usually around two weeks of usage after which Submarine needs surfacing “.

Rajan added ” Record set by a Type 212A German Submarine using a Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) compressed hydrogen fuel cells based Air-independent propulsion (AIP) system was for 18 days”. he further added ” If DRDO has achieved 14 days endurance with its Phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) based Air-independent propulsion (AIP) system then we are par with Global leaders in AIP System ” .

DRDO developed PAFC powered AIP module technology already has been transferred to Thermax Ltd in Pune for further production even though first Scorpene submarines to get indigenous AIP System will happen only in 2021-22 when they come for their first refit after which all Six submarines will get AIP module.

Navy also plans to use DRDO developed AIP System for Six next generation Diesel-Electric submarines which will be procured under Project-75I (India) soon. DRDO also has given hints that it will also start work on next-generation AIP technology which can be incorporated in future Indian-built submarines under Project-76.

Makers of Scorpene submarines, ” Naval Group ” (formerly DCNS) had offered India Improvised first generation MESMA AIP, but the Indian Navy was rather impressed with DRDO’s PAFC powered AIP module which was next generation AIP technology when compared to MESMA.

MESMA AIP module which is fitted in Pakistani Navy operated two French-designed Agosta 90B Class Submarines are relatively noisy when compared to Fuel Cell-based AIP module like one DRDO has developed due to the presence of a large number of moving parts. Not only MESMA AIP module is bulky when compared to Fuel Cells based AIP module it also compromises stealthiness of the sub when engaged, risking chances of Submarine detection.

Role of Air-independent propulsion (AIP) Explained

Modern Diesel-Electric submarines using their large network of batteries can remain submerged for 4-5 days at max before they are required to recharge them for which non-nuclear submarines have to come to periscope depth to carry out activity called “snorkelling” so that it can again use its Diesel engines to recharge their batteries.

Use of AIP on a diesel-electric submarine, greatly increases their underwater endurance, allowing them to continuously stay submerged for weeks without surfacing. Although the submarine eventually needs to surface to charge its batteries and their endurance is nowhere on-par with nuclear-powered submarines but it is seen as a cheaper alternative to Nuclear Submarines.



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