DRDO to test fuel cell-based AIP for submarines next year

India’s premier research and development organization Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working to conduct the first underwater trial of its fuel cell-based AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system in Mumbai.

The niche technology is being developed that will enhance the submerged endurance of the submarine severalfold.

Noteworthy, an AIP system gives a submarine the ability to remain submerged underwater, away from enemy sensors, for a long time without surfacing.

 Further, it has merits in performance compared to other technologies and is unique as the hydrogen is generated onboard. 

According to the DRDO, the AIP has a force multiplier effect on lethality of a diesel-electric submarine. The underwater testing of AIP is likely to be conducted next year.

Earlier, in 2021 the shore-based prototype testing was completed.

Once developed, the indigenous AIP system will be fitted into three Scorpene submarines that India is in the process to purchase from France.

The plan is to equip all new submarines with the indigenous AIP system.

Recently, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has accorded approval for the procurement of three additional Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines for the Indian Navy from France under ‘Buy (Indian)’ category.

These will be constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).

In the process to take the AIP project forward, DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) and Naval Group France had on 23 January, 2023 signed an agreement to extend cooperation to enter into the detailed design phase for integration of indigenous AIP in the Kalvari class submarines.

Further, as part of the agreement, Naval Group France will certify the AIP design for integration in the submarines.

Also to be noted that globally there are different types of AIP systems, but the fuel cell-based AIP is considered unique as hydrogen is generated onboard.

It will obviate the need for carrying hydrogen onboard which is a major safety concern for a submarine.

With its integration into the submarines, India will join an elite club of nations who have indigenously developed fuel cell-based submarine AIP technology.

It is worth mentioning that this technology is a green one since the by-product of the reaction is non-polluted water that can be released into the oceans.

Source: https://www.newindianexpress.com/