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India’s quest for self-reliance in underwater warfare takes a major leap forward with the development of an indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system by the DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL). This game-changing technology promises to significantly enhance the submerged endurance of Indian submarines, giving them a decisive edge in maritime operations.

At the heart of this innovation lies a Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell (PAFC)–based AIP system. This technology allows submarines to stay submerged for extended periods without surfacing for air, thanks to the conversion of hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Initially, a 250-kilowatt (kW) system will be integrated into the lead Kalvari-class submarine starting in 2025.

But the story doesn’t end there. The beauty of this modular technology lies in its scalability. The 250 kW system can be easily upgraded to a more powerful 500 kW configuration. This opens the door for its application in the larger Project-76 submarines, which boast a submerged displacement of 3,000-4,000 tons.

The implications are far-reaching:

  • Enhanced stealth and survivability: Submarines equipped with AIP systems can patrol underwater for longer durations, minimizing their detection by enemy forces.
  • Greater operational flexibility: AIP allows submarines to operate farther from their bases and undertake longer missions without refuelling, expanding their operational reach.
  • Strategic advantage: This indigenous technology reduces dependence on foreign suppliers and strengthens India’s self-reliance in critical defence domains.

The development of this AIP system marks a significant milestone in India’s quest for a potent underwater force. It highlights the DRDO’s expertise in cutting-edge naval technologies and its commitment to equipping the Indian Navy with the best possible capabilities.

As this technology matures and finds its way into more submarines, the Indian Navy will be poised to dominate the underwater domain, ensuring the security of its vast maritime borders and safeguarding its strategic interests.

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