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Friday, December 10, 2010

Navy to acquire AIP technology for Scorpenes

The navy’s Scorpene submarines are likely to have increased operational range and also do away with surfacing to access atmospheric oxygen, thanks to the new Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology.

The submarines, under construction at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited, are likely to get the AIP technology that will increase their operational range without having to surface to access atmospheric oxygen.

The navy is considering various options available with it to fit the last two of the six submarines under the project, codenamed P75, with the AIP including the proposal made by French defence company DCNS.
DCNS Chairman and CEO Patrick Boissier, who is part of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s delegation to India, told reporters here that his firm has made an informal proposal to the navy in this regard.

“We have made an informal proposal to the navy for AIP technology in the last two of the Scorpenes that will be built at MDL. Now it is up to the navy to take a call on this proposal. We have held informal discussions in this regard,” Boissier said.

“The navy is considering the proposal and will take a call on it. We have some options, apart from the DCNS one, including an indigenous AIP system that is under development,” a navy officer, unwilling to be named, said here.

AIP encompasses technologies that allow a submarine to operate without the need to surface or use a snorkel to access atmospheric oxygen and it usually excludes the use of nuclear power, but is about augmenting or replacing diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.

Several countries in the world currently adopt the AIP technology in the submarines that they build and these include the US, Russia, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

Though the Scorpenes, being built with DCNS and Tales help at MDL, did not envisage AIP for the six submarines under the P75 project, the navy’s second line of six conventional submarines, called P75I, which were recently approved by the government, will incorporate the technology.

Talking about P75, Bossier said DCNS was in charge of major transfer of technology (ToT) to MDL for the building of 6 Scorpene submarines.

“We are carrying out genuine transfers of technologies and know-how at an unprecedented level under the Scorpene project right from the first submarine, which is under construction at present,” he said.

DCNS is providing Indian partners with technical assistance to manufacture equipment through indigenisation programmes.
“MDL has today absorbed the demanding technologies associated to hull fabrication. The shipyard modernisation programme launched by MDL will allow it to deliver more than one submarine per year,” he added.

The Scorpene project is currently delayed by over two years now and the first submarine is expected to be delivered by MDL only in 2012, after which the remaining five are expected at the rate of one submarine every year.

Boissier said MDL had already done the work on the hulls for the first two of the six Scorpenes and the work on the third and fourth vessels’ hulls were in progress.

“The frame to receive the hull of the fifth submarine is in progress. As you know, the launch of the first submarine has been delayed. We are constantly working with MDL and Delhi authorities to achieve the earliest possible date of launch,” Boissier noted.

At present, the outfitting works on the first Scorpene are in progress and the delivery of combat system equipment for it would happen soon. The other five submarines would get the equipment at the rate of one per year.

For the upcoming stages of the building (outfittings, systems integration and trials), Boissier said an new approach was needed at the MDL and together with DCNS, the shipyard had set up a ‘task force’ to monitor quality and improve efficiency.

“MDL is the only Indian naval shipyard to have produced submarines in the past. However, the competencies developed have seen a dip in the last 15 years.

“Considering submarines technologies, this is a huge gap to fill. Human competences, when not maintained, disappear slowly but surely. Industrial capacities too become weak or obsolete. You, therefore, have to consider new investments and learning stages that cost both time and money. It is crucial to keep competencies and industrial capacities up to date to perpetuate the investments made,” he said.(source