The arrival of the first Scorpene submarine by late 2016 in the Indian Navy would still not cure it of its underwater weakness, according to defence experts as the boat would have arrived very late along with the absence of a critical power system which enhances a submarine’s stealth capability. The first four boats would not have the Air Independent Propulsion, which allows a submarine to remain submerged for longer periods.
According to the submarine building plan of the government and MDL’s contract with the French DCNS, the first four boats will be conventional diesel-electric submarines while the last two, which according to the latest MDL projections should reach the Navy in 2020 and 2021 respectively, will have the AIP. Experts are, however, dreading a failure of the DRDO system as happens with most of the organisation’s defence projects and hope that the system is fully developed and tested by the time the last two vessels near completion.
AIP allows a submarine to stay underwater for more than three weeks at a stretch thus eliminating the need to periodically resurface. The system is the “next best thing” to nuclear-powered boats according to former Indian Navy submariners and would also be lighter thus allowing operation in shallow waters.
“Moreover, the completion of the last two boats has to be aligned with the development of the DRDO’s AIP in a way where the vessels should not remain half constructed,” explained an official. Sources, however, beli-eve that in the event the DRDO project fails or defaults on the 2015 deadline, the Indian government will go for two options suggested as a stop-gap arrang-ement. The first is to buy two AIP- ready boats off the shelf, which the French have promised to build within time. The other is to buy the second generation Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome, which will be powered by fuel cells in place of steam.
The Asian age