Martin Manaranche story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur
The anticipated delivery time lines for the first vessel is maximum of 60 months followed by delivery of one vessel every 12 months (from the date of contract award).
According to the RFI, a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued to the shipyards who have completed the feasability examination and fullfilled all requirements needed.
Here is what the RFI call for in terms of operational requirements: “
The Landing Platform Dock (LPDs) shall be capable to transport and land ashore a combined arms force and to sustain their operations ashore. Inherent to this capability would be a capacity to embark and sustain a body of troops at sea for prolonged durations, to embark, stow onboard and discharge at the objective the full range of the combat cargo required for undertaking and sustaining the operations ashore and to enable operation of multiple means of ship to shore movement of troops and cargo. LPDs will undertake Out of Area Contingencies (OOAC) through its inherent capability to transport and deploy forces ashore, ability to arrive quickly in area, and sustain operations at sea for prolonged durations. LPDs will act as Command Centre for the Commander, Amphibious Task Force, Landing Force Commander and the Air Force Commander and also undertake Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Missions. Additionally, LPDs will also act as mother ship for unmanned capability and to support operation/ exploitation of all dimensions of futuristic unmanned vehicles/ platforms/ equipment. The LPDs will also provide medical facilities for treatment of battle casualties.”
Regarding the specifications, the LPDs will feature a crew of 540 sailors with a capacity to embark 900 troops. Ships should be up to 200 meters-long, have a draft up to 8 meters full loaded and achieve a cruising speed of 14 to 16 knots. The range should reach 10,000 nautical miles at economical speed. The ships are to be provided with an Electric Propulsion (Integrated Full Electric Propulsion/ Hybrid Propulsion) System.
In terms of weapons, the LPDs should be equipped with 32 Vertical Launch – Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VLSRSAM) and 16 anti-ship missiles. In terms of guns, the RFI calls for the capacity to embark 4 x AK 630 CIWS with electro optical fire control system, 6 HMGs with stabilized gun control stations/ SRCGs, directed energy weapon (in lieu of AK 630 when developed) and 8 MMGs.
The sensor suite will consist in one E/ F Band combined air and surface surveillance radar, one 3D C/D Band air surveillance radar, one surface surveillance radar, two ‘I’ Band, one E/F COTS radars and one EO/IRST.
The ship should have a ‘through deck’ (therefore an LHD – Landing Helicopter Dock, rather than an LPD – Landing Platform Dock) design and be capable of accommodating at least two heavy lift helicopters, 12 Special Operations Helicopters and 2 NSUAS (Naval Ship-born Unmanned Aerial System) and permit simultaneous operations of at least 04 Special Ops helicopters (includes operation of 1 NSUAS in lieu). Out of these, at least 12 Special Operations Helicopters and 2 NSUAS would be stowed inside the hangar and atleast 02 Heavy Lift Helicopters would be parked on the deck in blade folded configuration. The foremost helicopter spot is to be strengthened to operate a Heavy Lift Helicopter, with max All Up Weight of 40 Tons.
For stowage of the helicopters in below deck hangarage, the LPD is to be fitted with two aircraft lifts, one main and one standby lift. The main lift should serve the hangar as well as the vehicle deck(s). Both should have a 24 tonnes bearing capability.
As for its amphibious capacity, each ship should be able to accommodate 4 LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) and 4 LCMs (Landing Craft Mechanized ). Later, the ships are to be fitted to embark two LCACs each in lieu of 4 LCMs.
Likely bidders and designs
The following Indian shipbuilders are expected to bid for the Indian Navy LPD tender:
- Cochin Shipyards Ltd based in Kochi. They are the largest shipbuilder in India and have recently built India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.
- L&T Shipbuilding with their two shipyards: Kattupalli (about 40 km north of Chennai) and Hazira. Hazira has the capability to build sophisticated mid-sized ships up to 20,000 deadweight capacity and 160 meters in length.
- Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE) located in Kolkata. They are currently building the Project 17A-class frigates for the Indian Navy. They have previously built INS Aditya, a 24,500 tons / 172 meters long replenishment vessel.
- Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) located in Mumbai. While their current infrastructures, today, may not be sized to build a large LPD, the shipyard is planning a CAPEX (capacity expansion).
The following designs will likely compete for the Indian Navy LPD tender:
- Russia’s Project 23900E, the export variant of the Ivan Rogov-class. Two ships are currently under construction at the Zaliv Shipyard in Kerch (Crimea) for the Russian Navy.
- France’s Mistral-class LHD. Three ships are currently in service with the French Navy and two more with the Egyptian Navy (those were initially ordered by Russia). They were built and designed by Naval Group. Earlier this year, the Indian Navy was able to see Mistral-class LHD Tonnerre in action, during amphibious exercise Varuna 21.
- Spain’s Juan Carlos I-class (also known as BPE for Buque de Proyección Estratégica). A single unit is in service with the Spanish Navy, two with the Royal Australian Navy and two more are under construction for the Turkish Navy. The BPE was designed and built by Spain’s shipbuilder Navantia. They published a video back in 2019 in which they clearly show their intention to propose their LHD design to India.
Other designs could include a proposal by German shipbuilder TKMS who used to have an LHD design in the mid-2000 known as MHD 150 / MRD. South Korea could also make a proposal, having recent experienced in building the Dodko and Marado LHDs for the ROK Navy. Singapore’s ST Engineering has the Endurance series of LPDs (the largest versions of which features a ‘through deck’ making them de facto some LHD designs). Italy may propose a version of Fincantieri’s latest LHD design, the Trieste, which just started sea trials.