Thursday, April 9, 2015

Indian Navy MSV Part 1

 Indian Navy MSV Part 1

Mistral in Action

Mistral French Navy

           The Multi Role Support Vessel is a warship that was sought by the Indian Navy to perform multiple roles from a single platform. Indian Navy aimed to perform humanitarian and disaster relief operations, evacuation missions, aviation operations using the rotary wing aircrafts attached to these vessels. The vessels were also required to perform amphibious assault operations and force projection. 

            Indian Navy was also charged to protect the water and islands around the strategic Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Navy along with the Coast Guards was charged the overall responsibility of the Lakshwadeep Islands. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands form an archipelago in the crucial Bay of Bengal waters. 


          Andaman and Nicobar Islands were captivated by the Japanese during the World War II. Repeated reporting of suspicious activities in and around these Islands has been a major problem the Navy has been unable to solve. Constant threat to these Islands from a sea borne hostile force is something India can’t role down. To curb the presence of Chinese vessels and influence in and around these strategic islands the Andaman and Nicobar Command was carved out.   

          Performing amphibious operations on these Islands is something Indian forces have to be always committed to be and with various vessels being placed under the ANC it has turned out to be a major Amphibious Warfare Hub. Amphibious operations have been part of the warfare for quite a long time. The primary method in amphibious operations is to deliver troops to shore. The forces are delivered to the shore through mechanized landing crafts and the forces are usually given air support through the Rotary and fixed crafts attached to the vessels.

         Indian navy is currently in command of the Austin Class amphibious transport dock INS Jalashwa. India procured INS Jalashwa with six Sikorsky Sea king helicopters for US $90 million. It is currently under the Easter Naval Command. 

       The Kumbhir class tank landing ships have been used by IN for amphibious operations. IN also operates eight Kumbhir class vessels; four each of these vessels are homed in Vishakhapatnam and Port Blair. 

        IN operates Magar class amphibious ships which were indigenously developed in Hindustan shipyard limited. HSL built two ships of these class, both the vessels operate out of Vishakhapatnam. 

      The Shardul class vessels have been charged with the responsibility of landing main battle tanks on the shores. The last vessel inducted by Indian navy for amphibious roles was the INS Jalashwa in 2007. The other vessels charged with amphibious operations have turned obsolete thus arising the need for newer vessels to perform this crucial task. 

      By 2009 Indian Navy forwarded a request to Ministry of Defence for acquiring Landing Helicopter Dock. This would enable the Navy with capabilities for performing humanitarian and disaster response, amphibious warfare and for protecting the Islands of India. The Ministry of Defence taking note of the depleting fleet floated a tender for procuring 4 LHD Multi-Role Support Vessels in November 2013. 

         The program was designated under the ‘Make and Buy’ scheme. The vessels were to be built under foreign and Indian shipyard collaboration. The first two ships were to be built under the collaboration in an Indian ship yard. The remaining two would be built by the state run Hindustan Shipyard Limited under a ToT program. A committee setup by the Indian Navy for the LHD program setup strong requirements for the program.

       The vessel itself was to be no more than 35 tons. The vessel was expected to endure a mission of roughly 45 days and was required to float at speeds not less than 20 knots. It was to be powered by an electronic propulsion system and was to carry at least 10 rotary aircrafts. The vessel was to accommodate 1400-1500 troops with landing crafts, air-cushion vehicles, 40 heavy load trucks, at least 6 main battle tanks, armoured vehicles and mechanized landing crafts to ferry the troops and the vehicles to the shore. 

       The vessel was required to be fitted with a defensive suite which included heavy and light machine guns, missile systems, CIWS, anti torpedo decoys and counter measure systems. It was also required to accommodate a command centre for planning and monitoring the course of an assault. The vessel was also planned to be used as a floating hospital for which the vessel was to accommodate an “emergency hospital area “. 

       India received consent from various foreign shipyards to be part of the program. Larsen & Toubro tied up with the Navantia of Spain which offered Juan Carlos to the Indian Navy. Pipavav Defence, a leader and pioneer in shipping technologies in India teamed up with France’s DCNS which is considered to be one of the biggest exporters to India in terms of transfer of technology and also in revenue term. The ABG Shipyard partnered with Alion of the USA. Fincantieri, BAE systems, Raytheon ThyssenKrupp Marine systems and the Schelde naval shipbuilding have shown interest.

Pipavav Defence  – DCNS

     One of the very first firms to respond for India’s RFP was DCNS, France. DCNS is one of the largest exporters to India in terms of technology. DCNS is already involved in the construction of the Scorpene submarines which are currently under construction in Mazgon docks,Mumbai.  

        DCNS teamed up with the Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering to offer the Mistral–class amphibious vessels. BPC 250 at 24542 tonnes and measuring 214.5 mts was offered to India.

   The French navy currently operates three ships of the class .Mistral is based on the BIP-19 design. BIP was designed at 19000 tons with a 190 meter long flush deck aiding for amphibious operations. An aircraft carrier like design was put forward by DCNS, which could launch an aircraft in STOBAR configuration using a Ski-jump.

    French senate turned down this design for the NTCD program. A more robust rotary aircraft carrier or mainly an amphibious assault ship was to be supplied to the French Navy. During the Euronaval 1998 which is an international event applying high technology to naval defence and maritime security and safety, the French made a formal announcement that the vessels under PHI program would be designed based on the design of the BIP-19 vessels.   

   By December 2000 an approval was received from the public purchase authority for the construction of these vessels. A contract for construction was handed over to DCN and Chantiers de l’Atlantique. An initial order for the construction of two ships of the class was handed over. The keels for the ships were launched by July 2002 and December 2002. The first of the ship under the class was designated as the Mistral and the other as the Tonnerre. 

       Mistral was launched by October 2004 and Tonnerre by July 2005. Mistral was inducted on 15 December 2006 and Tonnerre by August 2007. A third ship of the class under the name Dixmude was ordered. Mistral made her maiden voyage from 21 March to 31 May 2006. Tonnerre's maiden voyage took place between 10 April and 24 July 2007. 

     With over 20000 tonnes the Mistral class amphibious ships are one of the biggest ships in service under the French navy.  The Mistral can accommodate up to 450 troops, the ship is equipped with a sprawling 28000 sq ft vehicle hangar which can easily accommodate up to 40 battle tank battalions. The vessel also has a 9,530 sq ft well deck that can easily accommodate up to four landing crafts. The vessel is also capable of operating hovercrafts which are already under the command of the Indian Coast guard. The ship has a 9,100 sq ft command centre which can accommodate up to 150 personnel. 

   The information relay system for the ship based on the SENIT system (System for Naval Usage of Tactical Information). SENIT is developed on the Thales 3D MRR3D-NG Multi Role Radar which operates on the C band. For communications, the Mistral-class ships use the SYRACUSE satellite system, based on French satellites SYRACUSE 3-A and SYRACUSE 3-B. Indian Navy can effectively enhance these systems with its own satellite systems that has been put to extensive use.

        Mistral class amphibious ships are currently armed with an effective defensive suite. The vessel lacks an offensive suite but was never really designed with an offensive role. The Mistrals are armed with two Simbad launchers which can launch the Mistral missiles designed by the MBDA missile systems. The Mistral is an infrared homing which was basically designed as a Manportable surface-to-air missile. 

   Improved version of this missile was equipped onboard armoured vehicles, helicopters and ships. Mistral uses an advanced proportional navigation system using a gyro as a reference when in pursuit of a target.  To effectively enhance the Electronic counter-countermeasures capabilities the seeker of the Mistral missile has a very narrow field of view to reject decoys and interference. The ship also has an autocanon built by the Alenia Marconi systems and is armed with the advanced 30 mm/70 guns. 

     The ship is also armed with the Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun which is a heavy machine gun. The M2 is battle proven weapon and has been in production longer than any other machine gun.

         The vessel also has a space for emergency medical facilities which comes with specialized facilities for dentistry, diagnostics, specialist surgical and medical capabilities, food hygiene and psychological capabilities. The ship has a 900 sq mt space for the medical facilities which can room 20 emergency medical rooms and 69 hospitalisation bed. The ship can also accommodate 7 intensive care beds.

     The ship has a sprawling 69000 sq ft flight deck which is one of the largest flight decks provided by any ship in its role.  The flight deck has six helicopter landing spots which can be used simultaneously without any hindrance to other crafts operations. The vessel also has a 19000 sq ft hangar deck which can accommodate up to 16 rotary crafts. The ship is also provided with two aircraft lifts which can lift loads up to 13 tonnes. 

    The Mistral’s are powered by azimuth thrusters and is one of the first to be used in French Navy. Azimuth thrusters are a configuration of marine propellers placed in pods that can be rotated to any horizontal angle. The use of azimuth thrusters over the rudder and the traditional propeller enhances the maneuverability of the ship. The most powerful podded thrusters in use are the four 21.5 MW Rolls-Royce Mermaid units. Retractable thrusters are used as auxiliary propulsion for dynamically positioned vessels and take-home propulsion for military vessels. These thrusters are powered by electrical propulsion unit and use five 16-cylinder Wärtsilä 16V32 diesel alternators, and can be used in any angle. This propulsion technology gives the ships significant manoeuvring capabilities, as well as freeing up space normally reserved for propeller shafts. This system also reduces the space. 

Podded Propulsion System
   Crew cabins on aboard the Mistral-class ships are present in the forward section of the ship. The ship has ample of space for allotting a single cabin to each of the officer on board the ship.  Senior non-commissioned officers share two-man cabins, while junior crew and embarked troops use four- or six-person cabins. Each of these cabins are carved out with the interest of the crew and is said to be providing one of the best living conditions for the crew in high seas. 

      Mistral was part of operation Baliste which provided support during the Lebonon war in 2006. During Cyclone Nargis Mistral provided humanitarian supplies to Burma. 

      Tonnerre was involved in ‘Operation Licorne’ in the Ivorian civil war. Tonnerre was involved in the Corymbe 92 mission in 2008 it provided humanitarian support in the Gulf of Guinea. 

     Mistral till date has only been operated by the French Navy, the Russian navy had signed a contract for purchase of two Mistral class ships. The ships were to be delivered to the Russian forces by 2014. But owing to an arms embargo against Russia due to the alleged involvement of Russian forces in Crimea, France declined to deliver these ships to the Russian Navy. 

         Though Indian Navy has shown an inclined interest towards the Mistral a lot many issues have cropped up with Mistral basic design which is not in par with the RFP issued by India. Mistral works on a podded engine system. Indian Navy has strongly rejected this design. Indian Navy has also requested for better utilization of the flight deck and aims to operate heavier rotary crafts from the deck. It has to been seen if India chooses Mistral and DCNS will come up with new design asked by the Indian forces. But Mistral is one of the battle proven platforms under the program and the links of DCNS to the Indian Industry may have scored value points for it in the procurement process. 

 Article By Karthik Kakoor

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