Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS)
A landing platform dock is a warship that embarks, transports and lands elements of alanding force for expeditionary warfare missions.s. The ship could provide the Indian Navy enhanced amphibious capability. In addition, the LPD can be deployed for disaster relief operations. It can also function as a command and control platform during mishaps at sea like offshore oil installation fires and maritime air accidents.
INS Jalashwa, an amphibious landing platform dock originally commissioned as USS Trenton in the US Navy in March 1971, was procured from the USA in 2005 at a cost of MUSD 50.63 (`202 crore) and commissioned as INS Jalashwa in the Indian Navy in June 2007. This is the first ship to be transferred from the US besides being the first Landing Platform Dock (LPD) to be acquired by the Navy.
The Indian Navy does not have adequate landing platform docks, government’s financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said on 23 September 2020. The CAG’s audit report on Defence Services, Navy and Coast Guard was tabled in Parliament. On assessment of landing platform dock (LPD), CAG stated that the existing capability of the LPD, which is used to transport troops, defence equipment, helicopters and vessels into a war zone, was found to be inadequate to meet requirements of amphibious and expeditionary operations.
The Indian Navy had decided to acquire this vital warfare ship in October 2010 at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore. However, even after nine years, the contract has not been concluded. “This was due to failure to fix a specified time frame for obtaining a Corporate Debt Restructuring exit certificate by one of the participating firms,” the report stated.
By November 2020 ThePrint reported that the Navy was drafting a fresh ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP) with new specifications for Landing Platform Docks (LPDs), with discussions undwer way on reducing the number of ships from four to two. However, the Navy could float another tender in the future to buy the other two LPDs, depending on its priorities. In October 2020 the Navy scrapped the tender to procure four Landing Platform Docks or amphibious warships at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore, nearly seven years after launching the acquisition process.
The Indian Navy is strengthening its amphibious warfare capabilities to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy operated former US-owned, Austin-class LPD Trenton. It was acquired by India in 1997 and renamed INS Jalashwa. By 2017, India's amphibious warfare capability is burdened with nine older tank landing ships of various sizes and capabilities. The 5655-ton Shardul class ships are the latest ones which are a hybrid of LST and LSD designs. They are an evolution of the Magar class amphibious landing ships. Shardul and Magar class can carry 10 armored vehicles, 11 armored personnel carriers and more than 500 troops.
The Indian Navy originally desired a LPD configuration for at-sea logistics and humanitarian relief operations. On December 13, 2009 it was reported that the Indian Navy planned to induct four Landing Platform Docks to join the fleet alongside INS Jalashwa. These ships would be 200 meters long and able to transport Main Battle tanks, heavy trucks, Armoured Personnel Vehicles and other heavy machinery. It would carry out operations with heavy-lift helicopters of the Navy. The four LPDs were to have a point missile defence system and a close-in weapon system to protect itself from enemy firing and aircraft.
By 2009 it appeared that the Navy developed a requirement for helicopter carriers (LHD) with rear flooding decks to accommodate wheeled/tracked amphibious assault vehicles and LCAC-type assault hovercraft. The MRSS may host at least six medium-lift utility helicopters. The Indian Navy planned to acquire up to three LPH-based multi-role support ships (MRSS)
The Navy was looking for a hybrid design called Multi-Role Support Vessel (MRSV) which is similar in design to the ARMARIS-built Mistral, Hanjin's Dokdo and the GNG's MHD-150. A total of eight companies had proposed designs:
|14,500 tons||South Korea||Hanjin Heavy Industries||assault landing ship|
|15,000 tons||Germany||ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems||MHD-150|
|16,160 tons||Netherlands||Schelde Shipbuilding||Enforcer LPD|
|21,300 tons||France||Armaris||Mistral LHD|
|21,500 tons||Spain||Navantia||Strategic Projection Ship|
|21,578 tons||UK||BAE Systems Marine||Ocean-class LHD|
|25,000 tons||US||Raytheon||San Antonio-class LPD-17|
The Enforcer Series was developed around three basic sizes, based on the vessel's beam. Selection of the most suitable platform configuration is done in close cooperation with the customer by analysis of the Concept of Operations and functional requirements. The 14,000 ton RNLN LPD "Rotterdam" was the first of the Enforcer Series, developed in close cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN). This was followed by 4 16,160 ton RN LSD (A) Bay Class vessels and the RNLN Rotterdam-class LPD "Johan de Witt". The well deck arrangement varies between the Rotterdam and the Johan de Witt.
In January 2012 The Hindu reported that Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) expected to achieve a turnaround with the Ministry of Defence deciding in principle to award an order for construction of two Landing Platform Docks (LPDs). Each LPD, to be useful for strategic deployment as well as tackling disasters and other contingencies, was projected tol cost around Rs.4,000 crore. “The order valued at Rs. 8,000 crore is expected in a few months,” HSL Chairman and Managing Director Rear Admiral N.K. Mishra told The Hindu in an interview.
In December 2013 the Indian Navy floated a US $2.6 billion domestic tender for construction of four landing platform docks (LPDs) and bids were sent to domestic shipyards, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering, and ABG Shipyard. The service would select a winning design based on the low bidder. State-owned Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (HSL) then would build two LPDs based on that design and the winning company would build two. Larsen & Toubro was tied up with Navantia of Spain which designed the 13,000 ton "Galicia" class LPD in the 1990s, and more recently the 27,000 ton Juan Carlos I Amphibious Assault Ship for Spain, Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock for Australia and Amfibi Taaruz Gemisi for Turkey [all to the same design]. Pipavav Defence teamed with France’s DCNS which designed the 21,300 ton Mistral for France and Russia.
ABG Shipyard partnered with Alion of the USA. Alion took the 79th spot on the August 2014 Defense News “Top 100” annual list of worldwide defense contractors, wtih revenues of $849 million. In 1936, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) established the not-for-profit IIT Research Institute (IITRI) with the goal of testing and developing new, beneficial technologies. On December 20, 2002, approximately 1600 employees of IITRI purchased a majority of the organization's assets, founding Alion Science and Technology.
Alion is one of the largest naval architecture and marine engineering companies in the United States and maintains an excellent reputation for exceeding customer requirements. With over 50 years of maritime innovation and experience, Alion currently supports the acquisition and introduction of every current U.S. surface class as well as submarine classes. Alion technical and operational experts have provided ship designs for many international naval programs. Current programs include the South Korean Navy 18,860 ton Dokdo LP-X Class Amphibious Ship.
The Indian Navy set its target to finalize a $2.6 billion contract for Landing Platform Docks with private Indian shipbuilders by the end of 2017. If all goes well, then the Navy is expected to close the LPD contract by end of this year," Vice Admiral DM Deshpande, Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition, Indian Navy, said in New Delhi 19 APril 2017.
Indian Navy had planned four 20,000 ton LPD for induction in the next decade. India's private manufacturers Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) have cleared the financial and technical tests and have submitted commercial bids to the Indian defense ministry. L&T has a tie-up with Navantia of Spain and RDEL with DCNS of France. Earlier, the government had planned to give the contract to private as well government-owned shipbuilders but reworked it and decided to give all four shipbuilding contract to private players as the public sector shipbuilder had too many orders.
Vice Admiral Deshpande said India aimed to emerge as a defense manufacturing hub in the future; thus the Navy seeks the support of industry, researchers, DRDO and government organizations. He added that proactive government policies aimed at easing business rules would help forge a collaborative environment.
According to the Indian Navy tender issued in 2013, LPD should not be more than 215 meters long and have a draft no more than 8 meters in full load conditions. The ships would be powered by electric propulsion systems. The proposed LPD would have the capacity to carry six main battle tanks, 20 infantry combat vehicles and 40 heavy trucks. Each ship is expected to carry 1,430 personnel, 470 sailors and 900 troops.
On 23 May 2017 the Indian Defense Ministry gave an in-principle approval to a mega naval project worth more than $3.1 billion to provide critical support to troops in a war zone. The project would involve landing platform docks. Private companies would be manufacturing four landing platform dock (LPD) or amphibious ships with the technological help of their foreign partners. The Indian Navy has planned four 20000-30000 ton LPD for induction in the next decade.
India's private manufacturers Reliance Defense and Engineering Limited (RDEL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) cleared the financial and technical tests and submitted commercial bids to the Indian defense ministry. Three private sector companies -- Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL), Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and ABG Shipyard -- were in the race initially for the mega project. Larsen & Toubro signed up Spain’s Navantia, Pipavav tied up with France’s DCNS, and ABG with US company Alion. The Indian Navy nixed a proposal from Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) to participate in the tender along with HSL, saying work of the INS Vikrant at CSL would be adversely affected.
ABG was disqualified on account of poor financial health. The Controller of Warship, Production & Acquisition, Integrated Headquarter, MoD also didn’t approve ABGSL’s participation in the tender (financial strength) for the same reason. This left only two private sector options: Pipavav and L&T. Under the 2013 tender, two LPDs were to be built by domestic private sector and remaining by a state-owned company. The RFP proposed that the LPDs would be divided between private shipyards selected through a competitive process and on nomination basis to Hindustan Shipyard (HSL).
Later it was decided to give the entire LPD contract to private players upon acceptance of their revised bids. By April 2017, newspapers reported that the Centre would ask the two players to submit fresh bids and the same would be finalised by end of 2017. Financial Express speculated that the decision to “give all four LPDs to private sector shipyards” was “due to several reasons including the current order book of HSL”. The implication here being that Hindustan Shipyard had its hands full.
In 2018 the independent auditors of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Naval and Engineering (the erstwhile Pipavav Defence) have raised doubts over the company’s ability to “continue as a going concern”. If Reliance Naval Engineering were disqualified in the LPD contract over reasons of bad financials, it is clear that the project would end up with a single vendor situation, with only L&T remaining.
On 20 May 2017, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Defence, Shri Arun Jaitley, finalised the broad contours of a policy aimed at engaging the Indian private sector in the manufacture of high-tech defence equipment in India. The policy, which was developed through extensive stakeholder consultations with Indian industry, envisages the establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with qualified Indian industry majors through a transparent and competitive process wherein the Indian industry partners would tie up with global OEMs to seek technology transfers and manufacturing know-how to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains. The policy would give a boost to the ‘Make in India’ policy in the Defence sector.
Under the new strategic partnership policy, the government revised the terms of the LPD contract and asked two private ship builders – L&T and Reliance Defence (previously Pipavav Defence), whose financial and technical capabilities were evaluated and approved by Indian Navy in 2016 – to submit fresh quotes for the four amphibious war ships/landing platform decks (LPD) which was cleared by the CCS in May 2017.
Approximately 200-meters-long diesel electric propulsion LPD ships would have the capacity to remain in the sea for at least 45 days. The ship would be equipped with a point defense missile system, close-in weapon system, anti-torpedo decoy system, chaff system, heavy and light machine guns. It is expected that LPD ships would be able to carry six main battle tanks, 20 infantry combat vehicles and 40 heavy trucks. Each ship is expected to carry 1,430 personnel, 470 sailors and 900 troops. The ship would have capability of simultaneous operation by day/night of special operation helicopters and large helicopters up to 35 tons.
Indian Navy published the RFI (Request For Information) to procure 4 Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) from Indian Shipyards on 25 August 2021. 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 would 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 would 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 would also act as mother ship for unmanned capability and to support operation/ exploitation of all dimensions of futuristic unmanned vehicles/ platforms/ equipment. The LPDs would also provide medical facilities for treatment of battle casualties.
Four LPDs are proposed to be acquired. The anticipated delivery time lines for the first vessel is maximum of 60 months followed by delivery of one vessel every 12 months. The maintenance of the LPDs post guarantee period would be carried out by Naval Dockyards/ Naval Repair Yards. Training to IN personnel on operation and maintenance is to be imparted by the shipyard/ OEM of equipment at Shipyards/ OEM premises and (or) IN premises.
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