Naval Group's focus during Defexpo 2022: Project 76India and "concept" submarine SMX31E - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 2 March 2022

Naval Group's focus during Defexpo 2022: Project 76India and "concept" submarine SMX31E

The SMX31E concept submarine is still 20 years away from operational service


By Ajai Shukla

1st March 2022


In the forthcoming Defexpo – 2022, in Gandhinagar from March 10-14, attention will be focused on one of the Indian Navy’s most important pending acquisitions. Code-named Project 75-India, this involves building six conventional submarines in India with advanced technology from a global vendor.


It follows Project 75, in which India is currently building six Scorpene submarines with diesel-electric propulsion – a technology that was out-dated even before it entered fleet service.


Now Naval Group – a French original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that partnered Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) in building the Scorpenes – intends to showcase such an advanced submarine that it will require 20 years more to enter service and will be as capable and long-endurance as a nuclear boat.


Naval Group’s concept submarine is called SMX31E. It will become an operational submarine after 10 years of development, and another decade for construction and sea trials.


The SMX31E is neither a nuclear-powered vessel, nor one that uses air independent propulsion (AIP). Yet Naval Group claims it will be no less capable than those – a fully electric submarine, whose batteries provide enough endurance for more than 60 days of operations at 5 knots, and more than 30 days at 8 knots.


The new SMX wil be a large, 3,200-tonne operational boat, with a length of 77 metres and around a dozen meters wide. It is twice the size of the 1,600-tonne Scorpène-class submarines that Naval Group has sold to Chile, Malaysia, Brazil and India.


Even so, the SMX31E will be crewed by just 15 sailors and officers, with room for accommodating additional commandos. Based on the current evolution of underwater technologies, Naval Group foresees higher levels of automation for future submarines. 


The SMX31E is going to be a test-bed for new technologies that can be adapted, as they are developed, into the already existing Scorpène or Barracuda submarines. The new technologies could also be fielded the new submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) that Naval Group designs going forward.


“Using advanced artificial intelligence technology, this submarine offers maximal connectivity to interact with the rest of the fleet in a distributed underwater network… The SMX31E can monitor areas 10 times larger than today with the same efficiency, said Naval Group in a press release on Monday.


Barracuda submarines


Naval Group also designs and builds the Barracuda-class, a new generation of French fast attack submarines (SSN) with cutting-edge capabilities, such as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, deep strike, special operations and intelligence gathering. 


The French Navy operates only nuclear submarines and the first Barracuda, the SSN Suffren, was delivered in November 2020. By 2030, six Barracudas will replace the six Rubis-class submarines currently in service. 


However, the Indian Navy is watching developments around the Barracuda, which has a conventionally powered version built by Naval Group for export markets. 


F-21 heavyweight torpedo


Naval Group is competing fiercely with German underwater experts, Atlas Elektronik, to supply the Indian Navy with torpedoes, which are in critically short supply.


An Indian tender for torpedoes has been out for years but, even though it is the world’s largest torpedo acquisition, it has been left hanging for a variety of reasons, including the ban that New Delhi imposed on the Finmeccanica Group (now Leonardo) after corruption was detected in the purchase of Agusta Westland helicopters for Indian VVIPs.


“Naval Group as a manufacturer, integrator as well as developer of advanced combat management systems of these torpedoes, also undertakes the complex task of seamless integration of this torpedo on-board the Scorpene submarines,” announced Naval Group on Monday. 


Alain Guillou, who oversees development for Naval Group said: “Our goal is to continue working closely with the Indian Navy and Indian industry to prepare the future evolution of the platforms and propose the best in class future submarine with advanced propulsions, weapons (F21 torpedo) and latest technologies for the future use of the Indian Navy.” 

1 comment:

  1. How is this futuristic submarine as good as a nuclear powered one, if it can do more than 60 days of operations at 5 knots, and more than 30 days of operations at 8 knots?


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