In a long and commendable tradition of supporting indigenous design and development, the Indian Navy has invited interest from Indian industry — both state owned and private — to meet a requirement for at least 10 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that can be developed and begin production within four years of award of contract. In a refreshing break, the Navy has chosen to exercise the “Make” procedure of India’s Defence Procurement Procedure 2008 (DPP-2008), a special category that can be invoked by the armed forces for “high technology complex systems designed, developed and produced indigenously”.
The Navy wants AUVs that can carry “variable payloads like high definition sonars and underwater cameras for surveillance reconnaissance activities of the sea bed (such as MCM operations, Oceanographic survey and specialised mapping etc).” The Navy also stipulates, in a broad list of requirements, that contending AUV concepts should involve platforms with (a) data recording facilities for subsequent analysis, (b) be capable of providing realistic target training for sonar operators, (c) be capable of being launched from small vessels with a maximum weight of 1.5 tons and (d) be able to operate at depth upto 500 mtrs for a duration of 7-8 hours.
The Navy has asked for an initial expression of interest by July 15, though this date is most likely to be extended. Several IIT incubation projects, which displayed amateur AUVs at the recent DefExpo are likely to show interest, or at least look toward technical tie-ups with larger firms. In early 2008, the DRDO — currently developing an AUV at its Naval Science & Tech Laboratory in Visakhapatnam — inaugurated an AUV Centre in the city. The indigenous programme is headed by a naval officer, Commodore N Banerjee.