Contrary to expectations, the last two Scorpene submarines will roll out of the manufacturing line without the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system meant to extend the reach of the conventional diesel-electric submarines.
“We have studied their solution (AIP system of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)… They need more measures to make it a safe plug… For the fifth and sixth submarines it is too late,” managing director of DCNS Bernard G. Buisson said in a conversation with The Hindu.
The AIP module is not part of the original Scorpene contract but the Navy has been keen on having them fitted on the last two of the six Scorpene submarines being manufactured by Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai.
The AIP module is being developed by the DRDO and was supposed to be installed before the submarines roll out. However, a delay in development seems to scuttle the plan. The module enables conventional submarines to stay underwater for a longer duration greatly increasing the submarines stealth characteristics.
Installation during refit
Mr. Buisson said the only option now of installing the AIP system is during the refit of the submarine, which is six years after induction. It is followed by a major refit six years after that. However, it is still not clear if the Navy wants to go ahead with the plan as it would mean opening up the hulls of the submarines.
DRDO officials said the prototype of the AIP system was ready and the programme could be pushed forward once a production agency was identified to manufacture it.
As reported by The Hindu recently, with the Strategic Partnership model for procurement of key platforms finalised recently, the Navy is not keen on ordering any additional Scorpenes and instead fasttrack the tender for procurement of new line of submarines under Project-75I.
On the Project-75I, Mr. Buisson said the DCNS was ideally positioned as they have a diverse set of submarines on offer that could be quickly customised for Indian requirements. The second line of submarines, which would be built in India, would be more advanced than the Scorpenes with AIP and missiles with land attack capability.