Torpedoing a submarine rumour – a note on submarines | 26th January 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the submarine production Project-75 India (I)-class.


  • GS3: Various Security Forces and Agencies and their Mandate;
  • Prelims


  • There has been news that the Navy might cancel Project 75I due to a lack of suitable bidders.
  • The writer argues against this rumour by giving some arguments.
  • The content of the article itself is not so important for our exam, let's take this opportunity to discuss the types of submarines and why India needed them.

What is Submarine?

  • A submarine is a vessel, or ship, that can go underwater. Submarines are called subs for short. Militaries and scientists use submarines to travel deep under the ocean.

What is Project 75?

  • In 1999, the Cabinet Committee on Security outlined a 30 year plan for submarine manufacturing.
  • The plan included designing and building 24 conventional submarines by the end of 2030.
  • Project 75 and Project-75i are two sister projects under this plan.
  • Project 75 aimed to build six conventional diesel-electric fuelled Scorpene-class attack submarines and was built by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).
  • Of the 24 submarines, 18 will be conventional, while the remaining six will be nuclear-powered.
  • The Project 75I, is a follow-on of the previous Project 75.
  • Project-75I was undertaken to build submarines bigger than the Scorpene class attack submarines of Project 75.
  • Project-75I aims to improve upon the indigenous building capacities of submarines in India. It also intends to bring in the latest technologies to facilitate better understanding and development.
  • In place of that, the Naval Group of France has withdrawn from Project-75I.
    They have announced their inability to participate as they were falling short of meeting India's Request for Proposal (RFP).
  • It is intended for the submarines of Project-75I to have Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP).
  • The group reasoned that they did not meet India's requirements. What India requires is for the fuel cell AIP to be sea-proven.
  • However, the French Navy does not utilize a propulsion system in their submarines.
  • This makes the French Naval Group unfit to participate in the bidding. Additionally, the participation of the Russian and Spanish companies is also somewhat uncertain.

What is the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System?

  • Submarines are essentially of two types: conventional and nuclear.
  • The conventional submarines use diesel-electric engines, which require them to surface almost daily to get atmospheric oxygen for fuel combustion.
  • If fitted with an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, the submarine will need to take in oxygen only once a week.
  • The indigenously-developed AIP, which is one of the key missions of the Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL), is considered one of the ambitious projects of the DRDO for the Navy.

What are the advantages of the AIP system?

  • The AIP system based submarines will be required to surface much less frequently, thus increasing their lethality and stealth multifold.
  • Diesel-electric submarines require them to come to the surface frequently to charge their batteries, thus their underwater endurance time is less.
  • ‘Air-independent’ propulsion technology helps to make the diesel generator less dependent on surface air.

What are the different classes of submarines in the Indian Navy?

  • Arihant class:
    • The Arihant is a class of Indian nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines being built for the Indian Navy.
    • India has classified these vessels as ‘strategic strike nuclear submarines’.

  • Scorpene class:
    • Scorpene is a conventional powered submarine weighing 1,500 tonnes and can go up to depths of 300m.
  • Sindhughosh Class:
    • Sindhughosh class submarines are Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and are designated 877EKM.
  • Shishumar Class:
    • The Shishumar class vessels (Type 1500) are diesel-electric submarines which have been developed by the German yard Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW).

Why does India need submarines?

  • India needs more submarines for two reasons.
  • First, we need it for our own maritime security.
  • Second, the Chinese are going to be positioning a lot more ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean in the coming years.


  • There are many things wrong with the report.
  • First, it is based almost entirely on conjecture, seemingly intended to dub Project 75I as impractical and “unviable.” There are no indications that the Navy considers the P-75I to be unfeasible.
    • The most difficult of the Navy’s conditions for foreign collaborators is the requirement that the AIP be a proven system. So, except for the South Korean firm Daewoo, no vendor that bid for the P-75I has a proven AIP system.
  • Second, the contention that the cancellation of the P-75I and a repeat order of Project-75 submarines would further ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ is inaccurate.
    • The Navy’s leadership has in the past acknowledged that the Naval Group, the French company that built the Scorpene-class submarines, transferred insufficient technology during Project 75.
  • Third, the claim that lithium-ion batteries are better than AIP — as media reports suggested — is flawed.
    • Lithium batteries, while offering better efficiency, power, and charge and discharge dynamics, are unstable and suffer from thermal runaway, fire, and explosion risks.
    • Regardless of the use of lithium batteries in Japan’s new submarines, lithium-ion fuel cell technology has still not reached a stage of maturation for the Indian Navy to consider it reliable.

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