India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has awarded a contract to Larsen & Toubro (L&T), a leading private sector company, for the manufacturing of two fuel cell-based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System Modules. These modules are designed to enhance the capabilities of the Kalvari Class submarines in the Indian Navy.

The AIP technology has been developed and demonstrated by the Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) under the DRDO. In addition, the Ministry of Defence plans to undertake the indigenous development of a 500KWh Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) System for submarines, which will replace the existing Lead-Acid Batteries (LAB) in the Kalvari fleet.

The integration of fuel cell-based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System Modules into the Kalvari Class submarines marks a significant step forward in enhancing their operational capabilities. The AIP technology allows submarines to operate without the need to surface for extended periods, thereby increasing their endurance and stealth capabilities.

The exact endurance figures of the Kalvari-class submarines have not been disclosed, but with the addition of the AIP system, there is expected to be a substantial increase, potentially doubling the submarine’s endurance. This enhancement in operational capabilities will enable the Indian Navy to maintain a prolonged presence underwater, gathering crucial intelligence and conducting covert operations.

In the second phase of the program, the Indian Ministry of Defence aims to develop a 500KWh Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) System for submarines. This initiative is part of the ongoing efforts to replace the existing Lead-Acid Batteries (LAB) in the Kalvari fleet. The LIB technology offers several advantages over LAB, including higher energy density, longer lifespan, and reduced weight. By adopting LIBs, the Indian Navy can significantly improve the performance and efficiency of its submarines, thereby enhancing their operational range and reducing maintenance requirements. The indigenous development of LIB systems demonstrates India’s commitment to self-reliance in defence technology.

The refit of the INS Kalvari, the first submarine of the Kalvari Class commissioned in 2017, will commence in mid-2024. This refit will involve a collaboration between the Naval Group of France and India’s Mazagon Docks Limited. The submarine will undergo a cutting process to add an AIP section, integrating the fuel cell-based propulsion system. This refit will mark a significant milestone in India’s pursuit of advanced submarine technologies and operational capabilities. Furthermore, the completion of AIP trials will pave the way for the replacement of Lead-Acid Batteries (LAB) with locally manufactured Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIB) in subsequent phases of the program.

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