AIP is an auxiliary system for increasing the endurance of the boat’s sub-surface operability. The DCNS system, known as MESMA (Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome), is based on the combustion of stored oxygen and ethanol to augment battery-powered propulsion. Conventional diesel-electric vessels have to surface periodically to charge their batteries, which ultimately propel the boat. An AIP would decrease the Indiscretion Rate, which signifies the required frequency of surfacing to recharge batteries or exchange air, and increase the ability to loiter under water.
For reasons of practicality, the offer, which is currently under the consideration of the navy, is something that DCNS Chairman and Chief Executive, Patrick Boissier says would have to be acted upon by next year. This is because the last two of the six Scorpene submarines being built at MDL are still at a stage where they can be fitted with the AIP plug. The first four submarines would require cutting of the already-constructed hull for the plug to be retrofitted. But this notwithstanding, he affirms, “We are in a position to adapt AIP to existing submarines.”
According to in the Indian Navy, at the time of placing the order for the Scorpenes, it considered the MESMA AIP an unproven technology and decided not to order it as part of its requirements.
Boissier, who is part of the delegation of French President Nicholas Sarkozy to India, also said his company has responded to the Indian Navy’s Request For Information (RFI) for the construction of a second line of submarines under Project 75 (India). The Request For Proposal (RFP) is expected to be issued sometime next year.
He also said that since DCNS has experience in integrating systems with reactors built by the French nuclear company Areva, it is also ready to offer its expertise in partnering with Areva for the construction of two nuclear reactors, agreed to by the Nuclear Power Corporation of Indian Limited (NPCIL) and Areva in a € 7 billion (around US $ 9.3 billion) deal on Monday.
Significantly, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is also developing an AIP system at its Naval Materials Research Laboratory at Ambarnath, near Mumbai. This is based on fuel cell technology, as is the AIP developed by Siemens, fitted in German HDW submarines.