New Delhi: The race to supply amphibious warships to the Indian Navy has entered its last lap, with the frontrunners likely to submit their commercial bids to the defence ministry next week.
The Navy might spend an estimated $3 billion to scale up its amphibious warfare capabilities for possible expeditionary missions.
While Reliance Defence has teamed up with French shipbuilder DCNS, L&T has tossed its hat into the ring by partnering with Spanish state-owned company Navantia to build the amphibious warships – known as landing platform docks (LPDs) – in the country. The firms have to respond with their commercial bids by June 22.
The LPDs will have a displacement of nearly 30,000 tonnes, making them the largest warships to be built in the country after the 37,500-tonne aircraft carrier INS Vikrant being assembled at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited. They will carry helicopters, marine commandos, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other equipment to support ground forces on enemy beaches.
Navy sources said the electrical propulsion-powered LPDs would have an endurance of around 1,000 nautical miles. Each warship would be designed to accommodate more than 1,400 personnel, and have a hangar to accommodate around 12 helicopters.
The Navy’s solitary LPD, the INS Jalashwa, has a displacement of 16,950 tonnes. Formerly known as the USS Trenton, it was bought from the United States. The Navy also has a fleet of five smaller amphibious warships with a displacement of 5,600 tonnes, and even smaller 1,150-tonne landing ship tanks.
Senior Navy officials said that after the firms submit their bids, the defence ministry’s Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) will scrutinise various aspects of the deal to make sure that all the procedures are complied with. The TOC report could be out by July-end, following which commercial negotiations would begin.
The officials said the lucrative contract could be awarded to the lowest bidder by the year-end.