The Indian Navy has floated a US $2.6 billion domestic tender for construction of four landing platform docks (LPDs) and bids were sent to domestic shipyards, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering, and ABG Shipyard.
A senior Navy planner said the service will select a winning design based on the low bidder. State-owned Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (HSL) then will build two LPDs based on that design and the winning company will build two.
This will be India’s first attempt to build the 20,000-ton vessels.
“The Indian Navy is in dire need of modernizing its amphibious capacity and enhancing its sea lift capability. Given its large island assets and the fact that India is emerging as a security provider and guarantor in the Indian ocean region [which has many island nations], the need of amphibious assets cannot be understated. The addition of four LPDs is hence an instrument in the fulfillment of India’s growing strategic role,” said Probal Ghosh, senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.
To build the LPDs in India, Larsen & Toubro has tied up with Navantia of Spain, while Pipavav Defence has teamed with France’s DCNS and ABG Shipyard has partnered with Alion of the US.
Limiting involvement to only domestic shipyards, despite having no experience in building LPDs, is welcomed by analysts.
“This is an extremely wise decision; LPDs are relatively less sophisticated than high-end destroyers and provide a perfect opportunity for domestic private industry to upgrade their skills in warship construction. Private shipyards which have made huge investments in developing modern state-of-the-art shipyards will be able to prove their credentials for undertaking larger and more sophisticated projects,” said Anil Jai Singh, retired Indian Navy commodore and defense analyst.
The LPD tender states the ship should be no more than 215 meters long and have a draft not to exceed 8 meters, in full load conditions. The ship will be powered by electric propulsion systems and have an endurance of 45 days with a maximum sustained speed of not less than 20 knots.
The LPD would operate a combination of landing craft, including landing craft mechanized to ferry tanks; landing craft, vehicle, personnel to transport troops; and the fast-moving landing craft air cushion vessels.
The LPD should be able to carry six main battle tanks, 20 infantry combat vehicles and 40 heavy trucks.
The ship also should be equipped with a point defense missile system, the close-in weapon system, an anti-torpedo decoy system, a chaff system, and heavy and light machine guns.Special operation helicopters and large helicopters, up to 35 tons, will operate from the ship.
The LPD should be able to accommodate 1,430 personnel, including 60 officers, 470 sailors and 900 troops. The ship would be able to conduct maritime surveillance, special operations, search and rescue, medical support and humanitarian aid.
India’s only operational LPD, the former USS Trenton now renamed as INS Jalashwa, was acquired in 1997 and can carry 900 troops, six tanks, 2000 tons of stores, four landing craft and six helicopters, and has a range of 7,700 kilometers at 20 knots.
Jalashwa has a seaworthy life of about 15 years since its commissioning in 2007.
Apart from Jalashwa, the Navy operates three Shardul-class tank landing ships, and four Polnochny-class landing ships.
“Indian Navy’s current amphibious warfare capability, though not inadequate, lacks adequate strategic reach. Four LPDs and Jalashwa would go a long way in addressing this deficit,” says Singh.