The Indian Navy has issued a fresh Request for Information for the Procurement of 4 Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) from Indian Shipyards. On Tuesday, the Indian Navy issued the RFI for 4 LPDs, amphibious warfare ships that can transport aircraft, amphibious vessels, troops and land vehicles, and 10 months after scrapping the previous tender worth Rs 20,000 crore.
The Navy had scrapped the tender in October 2020 almost seven years after starting the acquisition process for four Landing Platform Docks, due to the long delay in the acquisition. Even though the tender for the vessels was issued in 2013, the specifications for the same were issued back in 2006. As there have been significant changes in the technology in all these years, the navy had said that they want to scrap the process and issue a fresh tender.
Accordingly, after scrapping the tender process last year, the Navy has issued the fresh specifications for the LPDs under the new Request for Information. The RFI says that the Landing Platform Docks shall be capable to transport and land ashore a combined arms force and sustain their operations ashore.
Landing Platform Docks, also known as Amphibious Transport Docks, are meant for the transport and docking of a combined armed force. The LPDs feature a flight dock for aircraft at the upper deck, a dock well at the lower level which carries amphibious vessels, and space for land vehicles like battle tanks and armoured vehicles. The LPDs are capable of partially submerge the well dock by ballasting the stern of the ship, which allows docking and undocking of amphibious vessels.
India currently operates one LPD, the INS Jalashwa, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock procured from the United States.
According to the RFI issued by the navy, the new LPDs should have the 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,” the RFI states.
According to the specifications for the LPDs mentioned in the RFI, the LPDs will have a maximum length of 200 meters, and its maximum draught will be 8 meters. The ship will be powered by electric propulsion through shafts and propellers. They must be able to sustain a speed of 20 knots or above and should cruise at the speed of 14 to 16 knots. They should also be able to provide logistical support to the troops for 60 days.
The LPDs will be equipped with 32 Vertical Launch – Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VLSRSAM) and 16 ship-launched anti-ship missiles. They will have 4 AK 630 CIWS guns with Electro-Optical Fire Control System, 6 heavy machine guns with stabilised gun control stations, 8 medium machine guns, and Directed Energy Weapons in lieu of AK 630s when developed.
For counter-measures, it will have 4 chaff launching systems. They will also incorporate 3 Long-Range Acoustic Devices.
The vessels must have the endurance of 10,000 nautical miles at economical speed with 25% reserve fuel, and should be able to stay in the waters for minimum 45 days in terms of machinery and fuel.
The LPDs will be crewed by 530 people including 60 officers and 470 sailors. They will also carry 900 troops. The vessels must have facilities for 20% women officers and 15% women sailors.
The RFI states that the ship should have a ‘through deck’ design and should be capable of accommodating at least 2 Heavy Lift Helicopters, 12 Special Operations Helicopters and 2 Naval Shipborne Unmanned Aerial Systems (NSUAS). They are required to allow simultaneous operations of at least 4 Special Operations helicopters. The vessel should have hangar capacity for 2 Special Ops Helicopters and 2 NSUASs, while the 2 Heavy Lift Helicopters will be parked on the flight deck.
As the LPDs will have a through deck used to land only helicopters and there is no plan to dock vertical and/or short take-off and landing (VSTOL) aircraft, they will be actually Landing Helicopter Docks. As Indian Navy has retired its Sea Harriers, it currently does not operate any VSTOL aircraft, therefore the new LPDs will have only helicopters, not fixed-wing aircraft.
The Landing Platform Docks will be able to embark, stow and operate 1 chariot, 2 Special Operation Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, 2 Special Purpose Crafts, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. They will have 4 LCMs (Landing craft mechanized), 4 LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel), and two LCACs (Landing Craft Air Cushion) or two L-CATs (Catamaran Landing Craft).
The well dock of the LPDs should be able to operate at speeds of upto 5 knots, and the Ballasting/ de-ballasting arrangements are to be suitable for launch and recovery operation in a short time up to Sea State 3.
The vessels should have one or more vehicle decks with a minimum area of 2000 m2 for parking combat vehicles, which should be able to accommodate six Main Battle Tanks (MBT), 20 AAVs/BMP Class armoured vehicles and around 60 heavy trucks at the same time. They will have a total cargo space of approximately 1000 m2 and should be capable of warehouse stowage of around 400 standard marine pallets. The vessels are also required to have the facility to store 10 or more standard 20 feet containers, preferably on the flight deck without obstructing flight operations.
The RFI also details the other technical requirements, radar and aviation systems, attack and defence systems, facilities for the crew, medical facilities and other requirements for the LPDs.
For the four LPDs to be acquired, the first one is to be delivered in maximum of 60 months, after which each subsequent vessel will have to be delivered every 12 months by the shipyard. According to the RFI, a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued to Shipyards who respond to the Request for Information, after verifying their credentials and capabilities to construct the LPDs.
The probable bidders for the project include Cochin Shipyards, L&T Shipbuilding, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders. The bidders are expected to use designs from LPDs of foreign countries like Russia, France, Spain, Germany etc.