India and France have recently joined forces to develop the ultimate submarine technology. This collaboration aims to integrate fuel cell-based air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems into India’s Kalvari-class submarines. INS Vagir, the fifth of six Kalvari-class submarines, was launched in October 2020 as part of this collaboration. This blog post will outline the progress made so far, with an emphasis on the benefits to India’s Navy.
DRDO’s Partnership with Naval Group France
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has partnered with Naval Group France to create the world’s most advanced submarine technology. This partnership has allowed for the successful integration of AIP systems into Kalvari-class submarines. Larsen & Toubro and Thermax are two major prime contractors for such AIP systems in India. Additionally, DRDO has been researching strategic materials that can be used by the Indian Navy to enhance its capabilities across various missions.
The Fuel Cell-Based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System is a revolutionary addition to the Kalvari-class submarines. This technology increases the vessel’s underwater endurance and overall stealthiness. AIP systems use oxygen stored in tanks and fuel cells to generate electricity and propel the submarine through the water. This eliminates the need for snorkels or other surfacing means, thereby increasing its autonomy and reducing its acoustic signature.
The benefits of this technology are vast. The primary use is increased tank capacity due to the decrease in weight caused by eliminating bulky batteries and diesel engines. This allows more room to store supplies, such as food and ammunition, thus enabling more extended missions without requiring mid-mission refueling or re-stocking. Additionally, due to their silent operation, AIP systems allow submarines to remain undetected for hours on end which can be invaluable in reconnaissance operations or naval warfare.