With its Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), developed as a technology demonstrator, passing muster in extensive trials, the Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) in Visakhapatnam will “make a few more of the same” for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions by the Navy and agencies like the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited for safeguarding offshore installations.

The NSTL is a facility of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

In his first media interaction after taking over as Director-General (Naval Systems and Materials) at the DRDO last week, V. Bhujanga Rao told The Hindu here that the flatfish-shaped, 1.7-tonne reconfigurable vehicle capable of carrying payloads of up to 500 kg would now be converted into an operational platform.

Separately, the DRDO would work on a yet-to-be sanctioned Rs. 250-crore programme for developing a range of AUVs for a variety of roles as force multipliers. (As first reported by The Hindu, the agency is keen on developing mammoth AUVs, weighing 12 tonnes, which could function as submadrones under its secret Autonomous Sea Vehicle programme, which is similar to the U.S. Navy’s Manta Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Programme.)

Mr. Rao said the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) had developed the capability for swift deployment of seabed arrays for coastal area monitoring. “It will be prohibitively expensive to deploy such a system along the entire coast, but it can be done depending on threat perception.” The NPOL was developing an Advanced Towed Array System for ships. This would be ready for trials in a year.

The DRDO was in constant consultation with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to develop a mechanism to detect internal waves (caused by submarine movement) using space-borne sensors, he said.

Mr. Rao said a certain number of the Advanced Light Torpedo developed by the NSTL was being delivered to the Navy by Bharat Dynamics Limited. Its heavyweight torpedo was undergoing user evaluation trials.

As for materials, Mr. Rao said the Naval Materials Research Laboratory and the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory had developed in-house warship-grade steel for the indigenous aircraft carrier.

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