DRDO developing onboard equipment monitoring system for submarines

Such monitoring can forestall breakdown of the vessel

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:25 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2014 02:07 pm IST - Kochi:

At a time when serviceability of submarines operated by the Indian Navy has come under scrutiny, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is said to be developing a system to carry out structured health monitoring of the under-development nuclear submarines and future conventional submarines of the Navy.

Condition monitoring is critical to forestalling breakdown, as it works on the philosophy of predictive (prognosis-driven) maintenance. Constant health monitoring will maximise asset availability besides extending its service life. Such a system, integrated into the very design of submarines, has been installed on the first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant, V. Bhujanga Rao, DRDO director general (naval systems and materials) told The Hindu during an interaction at Kochi recently.

Indian Navy’s conventional submarines — Kilo-class and HDWs — do not have fixed, on-board health monitoring systems that alert technicians ashore to sub-par performance of equipment and systems, signalling potential breakdown.

Health of these submarines is checked periodically using portable monitoring systems comprising a network of sensors, said sources. Such checks are only possible when the submarine is available at harbour. However, all surface ships of the Navy sport such systems, which hold the key to their durability and extended serviceability.

“There’s a laid down inspection schedule for all vessels. For instance, norms suggest that pumps and motors are to be health-checked every six months while propulsion systems need a through inspection every quarter, added sources.

Mr. Rao said condition monitoring systems are extensively used in civil aviation, with technicians on ground receiving forecast on performance of on board systems via data link which helps them swiftly take corrective measures once the aircraft touches down.

The DRDO project is jointly executed by several naval and aeronautical labs and research institutions, with the Naval Science and Technology Laboratory in Visakhapatnam and Aeronautical Development Agency in Bangalore in the lead. The first Indian fighter jet LCA Tejas doesn’t have an on board conditioning monitoring system, but the plan is to have such a system for the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), both under development.

Citing the complexity of such a system, Mr. Rao said at least 800 sensors are needed to monitor the gas turbine that’s being developed by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment, another DRDO facility.

The system being put on board the nuclear submarines will constantly keep a tab on the performance of each and every system and equipment, including critical auxiliary equipment.

On the air independent propulsion (AIP) system, which will considerably enhance the underwater endurance of conventional diesel-electric submarines, Mr. Rao said talks are under way with French firm DCNS to install the DRDO-developed AIP based on hydrogen fuel cell on the last Scorpene submarine built at Mazagaon Dock under the Navy’s Project 75.

“Our technology is proven on a land-based prototype. A submarine-based prototype plug weighing nearly 300 tonnes is now being worked on. The French MESMA AIP being offered for the Scorpenes is an old system with a steam turbine,” he said. The DRDO AIP can be reconfigured for the second line of future conventional submarines under P75 I as well, he added.

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