Saturday, October 16, 2010

Four special ships for Navy

New Delhi: Signalling an important change in the long-term strategic plan of its armed forces, the Defence Ministry has okayed the purchase of four specialised ships that will triple the existing capability of launching offensive sea-borne “out of country operations” by the forces.

These ships, called the Landing Platform Docks (LPDs), are essentially a modern-day sea-based version of the Roman epic “Trojan horse”. Each carries in its huge lower deck hundreds of troops with tanks, vehicles and cargo. Such a ship can deliver men and equipment near a sea beach and does not need a berthing dock providing the option for landing thousands of troops near a spot chosen to attack.

The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, met earlier this week and cleared the purchase alongside the purchase of four additional long-range maritime aircraft for the Navy. The aircraft will allow dominance over the Indian Ocean. Currently, the Navy is woefully short of maritime surveillance platforms.

The additional LPDs were the first step towards increasing capability to launch “out-of-country operations”, set to be tripled over the next few years, sources said.

The Navy, at present, has one LPD, the INS Jalashwa, a 16,000-tonne displacement vessel. It was purchased form the USA for $50 million in 2007. The purchase of four additional LPDs would be done at a cost of more than $3.3 billion or Rs 18,000 crore. This time, the ministry has decided to call for a global tender. At least two of the ships would be manufactured at shipyard in India.

Forces that move across sea are referred to as “amphibious task force”. At present, India has the capability to move a Brigade, some 5,000 men, using the lone LPD along with a fleet of five smaller 4,500-tonne vessels called the Landing Ship Tank Large (LSTL) each of which can carry 10 tanks, 11 combat trucks and 500 troops.

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