Why doesn’t India have a helicopter carrier?
India did not needed Helicopter Carrier in the past. Aircraft Carrier were enough for projecting air power. Whatever the Helicopter Carrier did, the AC could do too. And Helicopter Carrier are used against enemy where radars and air forces are weak or absent as helicopters are vulnerable to fighters.
Even though Helicopter Carriers (HC) may be less expensive Aircraft Carriers (AC), India in the past did not had the budget to operate Helicopter Carrier along with Aircraft Carrierjk. If India had bought or constructed Helicopter Carrier , it would also had needed helicopters to operate from Helicopter Carrier . This would have put severe stress on the defence budget, and would had backtracked many other important projects.
However, now with increased defence budget, the Defense Ministry has taken a decision to procure LPDs to improve its Amphibious Assault Capabilities.
Landing Platform Docks(LPD aka Amphibious Transport Dock) are similar to Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD aka Helicopter Carriers), except that LPD have smaller helicopter landing dock than LHD. LPD carry less helicopters than LHD, upto 5–6. LPD are also used to transport troops into warzones. Indian Navy operates a LPD called INS Jalashwa, which was bought from USA. Sikorsky Sea King helicopters are operated onboard the LPD.
INS Jalashwa, a Landing Platform Dock (LPD), imported from the US in 2007. But it has aged despite refurbishment. It was commissioned as the USS Trenton in 1971.
After being delivered to India the deal ran into controversy. Displacing 16590 tonnes at full load, the Jalashva is technically capable of carrying up to a 1000 troops and six helicopters. It is the largest ship in the fleet after the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. It said India had committed to the US that it would not be used for “offensive operations”. It basically meant that the navy had bought a warship that it would not be able to send to war.
The other ships for similar tasks are the Shardul-class Landing Ship Tank Large (LSTL) that are still too small for the nature of operations that are envisaged. They are made in a public sector shipyard in Calcutta.
INS Jalashwa, a LPD of Indian Navy
Recently Indian navy briefs government on urgent requirement of Landing Ships. Navy has pointed out that the army has dedicated a Brigade, made up of about 3000 troops (the 340th Independent headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram) for amphibious operations – moving from the ocean to land – for such contingencies.
But the navy’s current “Landing Ships” were either too old or too small (or both) to execute such operations in a 1000 nautical mile radius speedily. The ships were also required to have helicopters based on them.
The navy has said that it definitely wants at least three LPDs for the kind of hostile and/or humanitarian operations that it is preparing for in waters just off Indian shores.
Indian 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 four LPH-based multi-role support ships (MRSS).
Indian Navy requires LPDs not only protecting its island territories and the exclusive economic zone but also to thwart growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean littoral region,” an Indian Navy official said. “The aggressive posturing of the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region has made is necessary to beef up [the Indian Navy’s] strength in the Indian Ocean region.
The Navy was looking for a hybrid design called Multi-Role Support Vessel (MRSV) which is similar in design to the ARMARIS-built Mistral.Indian Navy initiated a project called ‘Multi-Role Support Vessel programme’ for building 4 Landing Platform Docks. The tender has been issued to Reliance Defense and L&T. Both firms have partner with foreign firms like DCNS(France) and Navantia(Spain) respectively to built the LPDs. Two LPDs will be built by private firms, and remaining two LPDs will be built by Hindustan Shipyard Limited(HSL). By the end of 2017, the contract will be finalized. The procurement of LPD will also improve the Disaster Relief and Search & Rescue capabilities.
The Navy requires that the ships be no more than 215 meters long and have a draft no more than 8 meters in full load conditions. The ships will be powered by electric propulsion systems, have an endurance of 45 days with a maximum sustained speed of no less than 20 knots, and have the capability to carry six main battle tanks, 20 infantry combat vehicles and 40 heavy trucks.
The LPDs will also be equipped with a point defense missile system, a close-in weapon system, an anti-torpedo decoy system, a chaff system, and heavy and light machine guns. Special operation helicopters and large helicopters, weighing up to 35 tons, will operate from the ship.
The 20,000-ton LPD would be the largest warship to be built in an Indian yard after the aircraft carrier under construction at state-owned Cochin Shipyard.
The main reason for the need of LPD is to counter China’s rising naval power in the Indian Ocean. The LPD will play an important role in protecting Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands in a war.