France Offers 2 Quick Scorpenes, DCNS ‘Worried’ About DRDO’s AIP

PARIS, NOV 28: French shipyard DCNS, creators of the Scorpène-class submarine, have offered the Indian Navy two Scorpène submarines off the shelf as a quick stop-gap to stem dwindling force levels, compounded by the recent INS Sindhurakshak tragedy. The company, cleared by the French government to make the offer, has said it can build two Scorpenes and deliver them to coincide with the induction of the first of six Scorpènes being license built at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai.
I had a chance to speak with executives at DCNS who confirmed that the Scorpène build programme was ‘on track’ after major hiccups for most of the last few years. A review meeting scheduled for next week will take stock of progress, a monthly affair that involves persons from the French DGA, DCNS and French industry.
DCNS, currently committed through an MoU with DRDO to help facilitate the integration of the latter’s in-development air independent propulsion system has expressed anxiety about the absence of an official ‘Plan B’ in case the DRDO project doesn’t deliver a workable AIP module for the final two submarines in the license build. DCNS, which has for long tried to convince the Indian Navy to commit to the French MESMA (Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome) AIP system, it now plans to formally suggest to the Indian Navy that they ‘formalise’ this Plan-B on paper. The MESMA being proposed, sources at DCNS tell me, will be a second generation system where the steam generator involved will be replaced with fuel cell technology.
Officials at DCNS have also suggested that the DRDO system, being developed by the Naval Materials Research Laboratory in Mumbai, is unlikely to meet timelines given that it will need to be ready (developed fully and then tested in dock, at sea and at depth after integration with the submarine) before 2015 — a “difficult proposition”, according to one official. DRDO officials contest this, and insist that the programme is on track and will meet timelines. DCNS plans to recommend to the Indian Navy that the Plan-B be invoked if the DRDO doesn’t meet a specified timeline (beyond which, delays would impact the submarine build itself) on the indigenous AIP. It also plans to suggest that the DRDO AIP then be retrofitted on the first four submarines, if the Indian Navy wants that.

18 thoughts on “France Offers 2 Quick Scorpenes, DCNS ‘Worried’ About DRDO’s AIP”

  1. Sir, What about the cost ?? They treated us very shabbily ( read blackmailed us) during the up-gradation of Mirage 2000. Just to change Radar (that's also not AESA.) and few electronics they have charged us moon. They are business man and they will not give us the submarine cheap.
    Secondly on Rafael front according to one magazine the negotiations are more are less stopped and no way the deal will be signed shortly.
    Any comments from you ?

  2. Dear Shiv,

    MESMA is the least preferred option among existing AIPs in the world. Generally, countries are going for either Stirling Engine version or the fuel cell versions.

    Not only MESMA is inefficient but it also requires a massive support infrastructure on base, which would be very costly to build.

    In addition, getting two submarines off the shelf does not solve the problem. As of today, Indian Navy has 12 submarines out of which 7-8 are operational at a time. Navy is concerned about immediate future if Scorpenes are not delivered on time. It is worried about future in next 10 years time, not today.

    So DCNS offer is fine, but no thanks. AIP will have to be different one and sub program would need further accretion in terms of additional submarines.

    What Indian Navy badly needs now is SSN (nuclear attack submarines). Please somebody tell the political and bureaucratic leadership to give us nuclear boats. One SSN would be equal to 3-4 diesel electric subs.

    If really DCNS is worried about Indian submarine situation, it would be lovely on its part to help us build "Barracuda" type boats. Will it do that???

  3. If DRDO wants to develop an operational AIP system it would indeed need to be built and fitted to a test submarine and trialled at sea – probably for several years – to be safe.

    If India wants to delay its Scorpene program a DRDO developed AIP may well stretch the delay out to 2020.

  4. Indian Scientiest working on any project except missiles are just knowlegeless. They dont know any thing. they just depends on importing ready made technology. Check all projects and decide.

  5. @Shiv

    In my personal view if indeed DCNS wants to supply IN with 2 Scorpenes to coincide with the launch of 1st of 6 MDL built Scorpenes, then these should be based on the SMX 21 concept of Scorpene. Also DCNS should hand over documents (if any) related to SMX 21.

    These will benefit IN immensely, as that will allow IN to built upto 18 Scorpenes in batches of 6 each. Its a much better proposal than to put money for SLEP of 8 remaining Kilo subs.

    The reason I m supporting SMX 21 is bcoz the concept is referred to as a 'plug and fight' sub that can include AIP module and missile launch module with much increasing the sub weight.

    As for AIP module to be used some reports say Stirling AIP is better since its the mostly widely deployed. I have no opinion on whether Stirling or MESMA AIP should be used. As for the NMRL AIP I think its better to keep this AIP for the truly Indian design sub (under P75I) after the builders have experience in building Scorpenes.

    As per mr its best not to opt for 2 different submarines lines together now. Once the builders are at ease with making 18 Scorpenes, they can start work on Indian design sub under P75I incorporating features from Type 209/Scorpenes (SMX 21). Since SMX 21 is just a concept any evolution on that design will give IN/MoD/MDL a great chance to hold submarine IPR.

    these are just my opinion


    Joydeep Ghosh

  6. Respected DRDO officials,
    when was the last time you met the specified timeline,or might i ask when was the first time.
    kindly accept your incompetence and step aside.
    donot compromise the nation's security to uphold your hollw prejudices.

    yours sincrely
    a worried taxpayer who sees his money wasted on your science experiments

  7. Interesting. MoD should go for this proposal. In fact MoD should place order for another six Scorpenes or more and scrap the RFP for submarines. No point in having a submarine fleet consisting of different makes. Standardisation is the name of the game nowadays.
    20 Scorpene submarines outfitted with AIP and missiles and a dozen SSGNs (Arihant) and half a dozen SSBNs (Arihant-II) will make a potent undersea fleet.

  8. This is an offer which India should seriously accept it. There is no need to spend money in further upgrading the kilo & type209 subs as their shelf life is going to expire shortly. Instead 3-4 new off the shelf scorpenes alongwith 6 under construction will be a better option.


  10. I think this is a good oppurtunity and we should grab this offer and also at same build 4 scorpenes at mazgaon under licence and TOT to fill the gaps in submarine force levels till P75 I finally takes off

  11. Why do you think any company will hand over tech unless one was paying very dearly for it?

    The bottom line is that DRDO MUST deliver the goods even if it takes a few more years than anticipated.

    Indian industry has to figure out for itself how to build equipment instead of going the import route which only serves to make the make the users beholden to foreign vendors and sanctions, etc.

  12. Dear Shiv,
    This offer points towards three likely scenarios

    1. DRDO is succeeding with indigenous AIP technology possibly

    2. French are desperate for money right now

    3. French genuinely care about India's well being & want us to be the bullwark against a rampaging China in Indian ocean as America draws down it's presence.

    I would rather prefer one more batch of 6 Scorpenes considering we have the tech know how( With AIP) for littoral/Shallow waters & quick induction of 3 Boomers to take care of deep sea & hunter killer role.

  13. THE IN should think out of the box and instead try looking for refurbished used subs.There are many countries that are willing to sell them.Even if they dont come with AIP just 5 or 6 of these subs acquired in the next 2 years will greatly help in restoring some respectability to our depleted sub fleet.

  14. after the sindhugosh accident IN needs to look at this offer from DCNS. MESMA technology for AIP is of second generation. it's totally fuel cell technology. DRDO need not be in a hurry since there are other submarines in line for their AIP. for the time being IN should go with this offer.

  15. $uha$…
    i hope another Akula Class sub ll enter indian navy.
    Its best sub in the world…
    no any other sub having test depth of 580 to 600 mtrs..
    i think current available subs in the world, test depth not more than 350 mtrs..
    Scorpenes are good… and we should believe on DRDO's AIP, i know they ll come up with best result on time.

  16. DRDO fuel cell is based on PAFC in which methanol reformation takes place (using water) and H2 is produced.It uses phosphoric acid as electrolyte, that poses problem of corrosion, NMRL is developing special paint to avoid corrosion. It produces CO2 as byproduct.
    Type 212 AIP is based on PEMFC which requires carrying hydrogen onboard and combines with oxygen to produce water as byproduct after releasing electron.
    DRDO says its system is proven on land so it points that AIP will also be PAFC based in which H2 comprises 18.75% of weight of methanol. Also water is required for reformation.
    Conformed DRDO AIP is PAFC based :
    This removes the need of carrying Oxygen and Hydrogen onboard. It may reduce the endurance underwater.
    For information on DRDO fuel cell :

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