Amphibious Vessels To Strengthen Indian Navy

INS Jalashwa

The Indian government has cleared the Rs 2,176-crore acquisition of eight specialised vessels or LCUs (landing craft utility), capable of "hard beaching" on enemy shores, to boost the country's amphibious warfare and island protection capabilities.

This comes even as the defence ministry is finalizing another project to acquire four huge amphibious warfare ships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) for "stand-off beaching", for around Rs 16,000 crore.

The LCUs and LPDs will help in swiftly transporting thousands of troops, heavy weapon systems and infantry combat vehicles over long distances to take the battle right to the enemy mainland.

The Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the LCU project for the eight amphibious assault vessels, to be built by the Kolkata-based defence PSU Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd, a couple of days ago. "The first LCU will be delivered in three years," said an official.

The LCUs are likely to be based at India's first and only regional 'theatre command', the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which will complete 10 years of existence next month.

With additional airstrips, OTR (operational turn around) bases and jetties, ANC is slowly being transformed into a major amphibious warfare hub. A strong military presence in the 572-island archipelago is considered imperative to counter China's strategic moves in the Indian Ocean as well as ensure security of the sea lanes converging towards Malacca Strait.

The armed forces have been sharpening their amphibious warfare skills with a series of exercises over the last few years to practice blitzkrieg assaults on enemy territory from the sea.

All this gained momentum after the induction of the 16,900-tonne INS Jalashwa, known as USS Trenton earlier, and its six UH-3H Sea King troop-carrying helicopters for around $88 million from the US in 2007.

The second-hand Jalashwa, currently undergoing a refit, has given the Navy "strategic sealift capabilities" since it is capable of transporting four landing craft, six helicopters and a battalion of 1,000 fully-armed soldiers or a squadron of tanks over large distances.

The Army, on its part, has three specifically-earmarked amphibious brigades, with almost 10,000 soldiers, one based in South India, another in West India and the third at ANC.

The Navy in recent years has also inducted other large amphibious warships like INS Airavat, which can carry 10 main-battle tanks, 11 combat trucks and 500 soldiers.

Incidentally, the four new LPDs, which will be built by Hindustan Shipyard (HSL) as well as private shipyards in collaboration with a foreign manufacturer, will be similar to Jalashwa in terms of size and sea-lift capabilities. 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

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