Pushing towards developing the Indian Navy’s amphibious warfare capabilities, four major local shipyards are in a race to construct six highspeed landing craft (HSLC) that will strengthen the country’s ability to land troops, tanks and armoured vehicles on enemy shores.
Reliance Naval & Engineering, L&T shipyard, Goa Shipyard and Cochin Shipyard have responded to the Navy’s request for information (RFI) to procure the HSLC, issued on September 22, sources with knowledge of the matter said. The RFI seeks details of contractors’ technical and financial capabilities to manufacture the equipment.
“The companies responded with their technical capabilities, their design of the product and how they will execute the manufacturing,” said one of the sources.
The HSLC are a much-needed requirement of the Navy, which wants them capable to be operated from landing platform docks (LPDs), or large amphibious warships.
During an amphibious operation, an LPD anchors about 25-30 miles off the coast and about four HSLC emerge out of it and transport troops and vehicles, including tanks, to the shore. In addition, the Navy wants the crafts to have the ability to be used in ‘over the horizon’ scenarios, which means beyond the visual and radar range of the shoreline.
The Navy wants the HSLC to transport tanks, armoured vehicles, equipment and cargo of at least 65 tonnes, plus a minimum of 180 troops, from ship to shore.
This paraphernalia will obviously be transported in different configurations.
The HSLC will have strong bulletproof and armour plating with machine guns on both sides, providing protection to the personnel it is transporting. They will also have cameras for all-round viewing.
Besides amphibious operations, the crafts can also be used for humanitarian aid, disaster relief and logistic support for island territories. The six crafts are estimated to cost a total of Rs 3,000 crore and are for delivery in 2023.
The Navy’s LPD project also includes procurement of four warships for Rs 20,000 crore. It is one of the biggest contracts for the private sector, wherein Reliance Defence has teamed up with French defence major Naval Group, and L&T has tied up with Spain’s Navantia in the race to build the platforms. The commercial bids are yet to be opened.
These LPDs must have large capacity for storing and transporting tanks, vehicles, troops and even helicopters.
Each LPD must have four landing craft mechanised (LCMs), which are smaller as compared to the HSCL and cannot carry vehicles and tanks.
With the acquisition of the HSLC, the LPDs can have a combination of HSLCs and LCMs for amphibious operations.
Helicopters on the deck of the LPDs can also be used for transporting soldiers. This is where the navy’s procurement of naval multi-role and utility helicopters also becomes important, because those will play a crucial role in anti-submarine warfare and transportation of troops.
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