By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: After a 15-year quest to have at least a dozen modern minesweepers in its fleet, India‘s navy has now launched a global search for a vendor to supply 10 Portable Underwater Vehicle for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, basically a two-man operated midget-sized autonomous vessel that could help in keeping a watch against mines laid at its habour mouth and the sea beyond by enemies and terrorists.
The Indian Navy‘s Special Operations & Diving Directorate has put out a Request for Information on Aug. 21 and sought a response from Original Equipment Manufacturers or their authorised vendors, and government export agencies of nations that prohibit companies from offering their military products directly to foreign customers by Oct. 12.
The portable underwater vehicle is “envisaged to be used to conduct Explosive Ordnance Disposal and is meant for mine and improvised explosive device clearance operations involving surveillance, indentification and disposal.”
In common parlance, the vehicle is primarily for searching, identifying, acquiring and destroying mines and explosives placed by enemies or terror groups underwater or on the sea surface.
“The system would be a two-man portable robotic underwater vehicle, capable of moving through and manoeuvre in the water in three dimensions by a propulsion system and its associated surface controls for the complete operation.
“The main control console for operating Portable Underwater Vehicle for Explosive Ordnance Disposal is to be portable for positioning in RHIB/Craft and secondary control console for positioning in ashore/afloat control station for command team with a range of 3,000 metres.”
The portable underwater vehicle has to “undertake survey, detection, identification and classification of submerged bottom objects as mine, mine like objects in underwater condition, and also enable deploying and remotely firing of explosive, shaped charge for mine disposal role.” The vehicle is for operating on surface and from very shallow waters, from five-metre to 75-metre depth.
Habours the world over are vulnerable to underwater mines set up by enemies to explode and destroy warships and submarines that are entering or exiting a naval base, in order to neutralise them even before deployment. India is not new to such threats.
The Indian Navy has been plagued by a depleting force of minesweepers and has been left with just the last set of Russian-origin vessels that have become obsolete.
India has pursued a $5-billion programme for building at least 12 Mine Counter Measure Vehicles for long and has in 2018 aborted a deal with South Korean firm Kangnam Corportion after negotiations had failed over compliance and huge costs.
Meanwhile, there have been a few Indian efforts at building autonomous underwater vehicles for mine disposal, such as one by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the government sector, by Larsen and Toubro in the private sector in the form of Adamya and Amogh, and Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay called Matsya in the academia that was bankrolled by the DRDO and American company Teledyne Technologies.
In 2016, during the MALABAR naval exercise with the United States Navy, Indian Navy was a witness to mine disposal operations of the Americans using the Teledyne Technologies vehicle. The American firm manufactures the GAVIA, an autonomous underwater vehicle that is North Atlantic Treaty Organisation deployed.