Although We Believe the BEST AIP Will Satisfy Our Customers’ Needs, Navantia is Able and Ready to Incorporate the DRDO AIP for the Indian Navy if Required
There has been a huge lag in the P-75I programme, from the time it was conceptualised until now. How will this affect your offer to the Indian Navy?
This will not affect our offer at all. During the lag we have continued with the development of S-80, on which is based our offer for P-75(I). Now S-80 is on trials (HAT & SAT), so we are offering the newest and real (not paper) submarine design that will be very close to being sea proven (if not already proven) by the time of the contract signature.
As a Strategic Partnership programme, the prime would be the Indian company, either in the public or the private sector. Or the programme might get divided between the two. What impact will this have on your partnership with one or two Indian companies?
Navantia has a very flexible ToT model, proven through several international programmes (including submarines in India). In that sense we feel comfortable working either with public or private sector. In case Indian Navy/ MoD decides to divide the work to take advantage of the strengths of each prime, we understand that the extra work for coordinating three parties would be partially mitigated by the best practices of each prime.
What level of engagement do you have with the possible Indian prime?
We have been working with both primes during the last few years through different offers and programmes. For P-75(I) we have been requested to give a technical proposal by both and we are fully committed to find the best solution with any of them.
What is the unique selling proposition of your submarine? What kind of technologies will you be able to transfer to the Indian prime?
Our proposition is based on the Spanish Navy’s S-80 state-of-the-art submarine. The ToT should be adapted to the prime needs/ requirement of the selected Strategic Partner due to the fact that their existing capabilities are different. In this sense our ToT model is based on three main axes:
- a) Design expertise and human resources development;
- b) Core activities pertaining to submarine construction; and
- c) Indigenisation of products and systems.
We will work shoulder to shoulder with the SP to assure that the transfer of technology is received successfully, and adapting our support as the real needs evolve.
DRDO has been developing its own AIP. Will you be able to incorporate the DRDO’s AIP in your submarine for the Indian Navy?
Developing our AIP system for the Spanish Navy has required more than one decade of rigorous technology development process, a hard and long path not exempt of technical challenges.
This effort, in collaboration with Collins Aerospace and the Spanish Navy, has resulted in development of new in-house capabilities and Hydrogen technology expertise, as well as very valuable lessons learned for AIP system integration into a submarine platform—as it is intended to be installed in the S-80 Class, not a prototype—which, otherwise, would be hard to acquire.
This know-how is now available for ToT. Although we believe the BEST AIP will satisfy our customers’ needs, Navantia is able and ready to incorporate the DRDO AIP for the Indian Navy if required.
Technology has been evolving rapidly. What innovation have happened in the domain of conventional submarines?
There are many recent innovations that have not been incorporated yet in most of the existing conventional submarines (including many of those under construction nowadays).
The most relevant one is the third generation of AIP systems allowing the submarine to remain submerged for weeks. Many companies have been working to overcome the challenge of fuel reforming but today only Navantia and its BEST AIP technology has been demonstrated after a rigorous development phase. The first production units are underway and will be embarked next year in the third unit of S-80 class submarines for the Spanish Navy.
The integration of lithium-ion batteries is another feature that is now of interest for most navies. Today, only the Japanese Soryu Class has integrated them in one of the latest delivered units. This technology allows the submarines, considering the same volume as for lead-acid solution, to increase their time at maximum submerged speed and reduce the indiscretion rate with less weight.
Navantia is working together with French SAFT to develop and integrate the latest available technology in the S-80 design at the earliest opportunity, either for export opportunities like P-75(I) in India or for the Spanish Navy should this be required. The Spanish Navy is closely following this project.
With the growth of nuclear submarines and unmanned undersea platforms, what is the future of conventional submarines?
The submarine world is divided into those countries that only operate nuclear submarines and those who have conventional ones (just a few with both). It is true that the number of nuclear submarines has grown but the demand for conventional submarines has increased too. There are political reasons why many countries would not buy nuclear-powered submarines and therefore the need for SSK remains. The much lower cost of diesel electric subs is another important driver and today with the innovations previously mentioned these boats can be a real threat to other fleets and even nuclear ships.
In relation to unmanned platforms, some countries have recently had this internal discussion about whether buying manned or unmanned submarines. The answer today is that we are not ready to have a fleet of unmanned vehicles only and this will take years. And even when all the technical challenges are solved, there are many discussions about ethic related topics that need to be addressed and discussed in most of the countries worldwide.
What is clear is that submarines are becoming more and more mother ships, that will need to deploy all type of vehicles and would have to perform their missions in combination with them and with the same level of integration they have already achieved with other aero and naval manned systems.
For the last decade, Navantia has been working with different solutions (including a patent of a self-compensated shelter) for deployment of these vehicles and special forces. Different trade-offs were made and solutions that were not chosen for the S-80 of the Spanish Navy, are available for other potential customers.
In the aerospace domain, OEMs are working on manned-unmanned teaming. Do you envisage something like this in the sub-sea domain as well?
Navantia has launched the first unmanned surface vehicle marketed for real missions in Spain. The USV called Vendaval it is not a concept or development; it is an operational product since 2019 for surveillance and environmental control missions that is integrated into the Navantia Waters Surveillance System (SVAP).
In addition to the sensors necessary for autonomous navigation, the USV Vendaval incorporates other specific sensors, it is unsinkable and has an aluminum hull capable of withstanding high temperatures. It provides high availability with a minimum response time, allows operation in adverse sea conditions, and eliminates human risk.
Taking advantage of this experience, Navantia is developing different initiatives in the submarine naval field. Specifically, XLUUV (Extra Large UUV), with a diameter of more than 2m, has been identified as the area of greatest potential.
In this case, in addition to implementing innovative propulsive solutions to give the vehicle great autonomy, having enough space to transport payloads of considerable sizes makes these vehicles especially suitable to house specific sensors and actuators, depending upon the purpose of mission defined.
For this, Navantia, as a developer of complex command and control systems, is implementing the latest technological advances in autonomous navigation, underwater communications and artificial intelligence, all in a cyber-safe and reliable environment.