India’s Plan To Buy Landing Helicopter Docks(LHDs)

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An AV-8B parked on the deck of Spanish LHD Juan Carlos 1 during its visit to Mumbai last week. (Photo: Neelam Mathews)

The Spanish multipurpose warship Juan Carlos 1 also known as landing helicopter docks(LHDs) has underlined the requirement for four similar vessels during a visit to Mumbai’s port.

Montaje maqueta navegando con Príncipe de Asturias.
C. F.: no tiene.

The Spanish warship builder Navantia in a partnership with the domestic company Larsen & Toubro(L&T) is a bidder for the Indian requirement. The rival bidder Reliance Naval & Engineering partnered with French warship builder DCNS disrupted the procurement process due to financial problems, unfortunately.

No action was taken on the proposal when an RFP for the LHDs was issued by the Indian Navy in late 2013. In May 2017 the requirement was reaffirmed and fresh bids invited. The two commercial bids were submitted after completion of the financial and technical tests. Due to the strict clause about financial stability in India’s Defence Procurement Policy, Reliance has been disqualified and opening bids has been delayed as Navantia is the only contender for a contract which required competition.

The situation is triggering concern. “Why should a company be penalized through no fault of its own, particularly since this is an issue of precedence for the Navy?” said a senior retired naval officer.

Security shield of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean region and an upgrade of the Navy’s disaster management, amphibious warfare and the security of the neighboring islands is supposedly a priority for the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD). Especially the security of the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal is a point of concern.

The Indian Army already has a platoon of 3000 amphibious troops which are capable to handle any unwanted situations. But Navy’s current fleet is not well equipped for such operations. The LHD requirement includes a diesel-electric propulsion ship that is 200 meters long with a draft of 8 meters when fully loaded. It will be required to carry six main battle tanks; 20 infantry combat vehicles; 40 heavy trucks; and more than 900 troops. A point defense missile system; a close-in weapon system; an anti-torpedo decoy system; chaff; and machine guns will defend the ship. It would be capable to operate helicopters weighing up to 32,000 pounds.

But unlike the Juan Carlos 1, from which eight helicopters can take off simultaneously, India’s ship will have “much fewer” said Jayant Damodar Patil, senior executive vice president defense business for L&T. He added that the Indian Navy wants to use its current inventory of helicopters. Since the Indian LHD does not require a ski jump, it is expected to cost less than its Spanish counterpart. Patil said that L&T would do further work on the design, taking advantage of Navantia’s experience, and then manufacture the hull at its shipyard near Chennai

About Navantia

Navantia, a Spanish public company that belongs to the SEPI (a state-owned enterprise subordinate to the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Treasury), is a world leader in the products it offers:

  •  Design and construction of hi-tech military vessels and civil vessels.
  •  Design and manufacturing of control and combat systems.
  •  Technology transfer.
  •  Overhauls and alterations of military and civil vessels.
  •  Support to the Service Life of its vessels and systems.
  •  Diesel engine manufacturing.
  •  Turbine manufacturing.