DRDO to start testing fuel cell-based AIP for submarines early 2024
The cutting-edge Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology will be fitted in three Scorpene submarines that India will procure from France. Upon integration, India will become a member of an exclusive group of nations that have successfully developed indigenous fuel cell-based submarine AIP technology.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation will commence the underwater trials of its fuel cell-based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system early next year. AIP is a technology that enhances the submarines' submerged endurance capability significantly. The DRDO has already done shore-based prototype testing in 2021. Sources in the defence and security establishment told Asianet Newsable, "The underwater testing of AIP will be conducted next year." The home-grown AIP system will be fitted in three Scorpene submarines that India will procure from France.
As per sources, the first submarine would join the Indian Navy by 2030-31 if the contract is signed at the end of this year. By then, the DRDO would start delivering AIP for the new submarines and other scorpene submarines that have already been in service.
In January this year, DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) and Naval Group France signed an agreement wherein the French major will help and validate the integration of indigenous AIP in the Kalvari class submarines.
Internationally, there are different types of AIP systems but the fuel cell-based AIP is considered to be unique as the 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 that have indigenously developed fuel cell-based submarine AIP technology. This technology is a green one since the by-product of the reaction is non-polluted water which can be released into the oceans.
The technology has been successfully developed with the support of private players like L&T and Thermax. L&T is the recipient of the Transfer of Technology (ToT) for this AIP System.