Tuesday, August 25, 2015

L&T gears up to indigenously build the massive Juan Carlos LHD vessel

Indian giant Larsen & Turbo teams up with Navantia to offer the massive 26000 tonne Juan Carlos LHD vessel 

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 aircraft 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.

Navantia is a Spanish state owned shipbuilding company which has been a pioneer in designing and building military and civil ships.Navantia has experience in building technologically advanced ships like frigates, amphibious ships, patrol vessels, and submarines. Navantia is part of the consortium's involved in building the Scorpene submarines in India. Larsen & Turbo or the L&T has been a leading service provider for the Indian armed forces. L&T has designed several key components over the years for India’s robust naval platforms. L&T has been part of several key projects powering India’s dreams of being a super power. L&T has a shipyard capable of constructing vessels of up to displacement of 20,000 tons at its heavy engineering complex at Hazira. The shipyard  for long has been part of several key naval projects. L&T and Navantia formed collaboration and the vessels would be built and integrated in the L&T complex at Hazira. Navantia and L&T have decided to field the Juan Carlos for the program.

    Juan Carlos is a multipurpose assault ship. The ship can be effectively used for amphibious operations and humanitarian missions. The ship is equipped with a Ski-jump which allows STOVL operations.  This unique feature of the ship has earned laurels for the designers. With the ski jump the ship can also be used as an air carrier and can project the power of the operating nations across its region. The Juan Carlos is currently being operated under the Spanish Navy which has fielded AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft. Juan Carlos has a vast flight deck of 663 ft. The flight is equipped with eight landing spots which can handle operations of up to eight rotary aircraft simultaneously. The ship can carry up to 30 helicopters or 12 Harrier jets. The ship is believed have designed to accommodate the more advanced and the new F-35 lightning which can be used under a STOVL configuration. The Ship can accommodate up to 12 F-35s. The ship has a displacement of about 26000 tonnes and can travel at speeds up to 21 Knots under full load.

    The ship has operation range of about 17000 kms after a single replenishment. The ship’s well deck is huge and can accommodate up to four mechanized landing crafts that can land the troops on shores with ease. The Spanish navy currently operates the LCM-1E as the min mechanized landing crafts off the Juan Carlos. These crafts are powered by MAN D-2842 LE 402X diesel engines which churns out around 1085 hp. The craft can reach a top speed of 25 kms/hr when loaded with troops. Equipped with radar navigation, GPS, gyro needle/magnetic compasses these crafts can operate as far as up to 37 kms from the mother ship. The communications is taken care of by the VHF and UHF communications system. Currently these crafts serve the Spanish, Australian and Turkish forces. The ship has a sprawling 65,000ft of hangar area which can accommodate up to 12 aircraft. The ship is also provided with two heavy deck lifts.

    Juan Carlos can accommodate a compliment of up to 900 soldiers and can also make space for up to 50 Leopard 2E tanks main battle tank thanks to its well designed stern well deck which measures a staggering 227 by 55 ft. The main living quarters of Juan Carlos can provide quarters for up to 400 people. The main search radar of the Juan Carlos is the Indra Lanza-N 3D search radar. The radar has azimuth of 360 degrees and has a maximum range of 470 kms and can detect incoming targets within the range of 3-10000 feet. The planar array antenna consist of precision cut horizontal linear elements vertically stacked, each with its own receiver. Ultra low side lobes are achieved by precise control of the phase and amplitude of the signal fed to each element. The array is driven by distributed solid-state transmitter modules which are phase controlled. The shapes and the positions of the narrow pencil beam are controlled in range and elevation Target height is obtained using mono-pulse techniques, with enhanced measurement at low elevation angles by means of special pencil beam combination techniques. 

    Using advanced digital pulse compression techniques, the processor provides extremely accurate range and height information while automatically adapting to the prevailing environmental conditions. For advanced surface search capabilities the ship is equipped with the ARIES–LOW PROBABILITY OF INTERCEPT (LPI) RADAR. The ARIES family is a complete Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) and High Resolution Radar (HRR) solution. The ARIES family is suitable for the detection and acquisition of low Radar Cross Section (RCS) surface targets in severe sea clutter environments. This radar maintains a 360-degree search for all targets within line-of-sight distance from the radar, determining the ranges and bearing of the detected targets. For smoothened air operations of the flight deck the ship is also equipped with Precision approach radar developed by Indra. Precision approach radar (PAR) is a radar guidance system which can provide lateral and vertical guidance to a pilot approaching for landing.

    Juan Carlos comes with state of the art REGULUS electronic warfare systems. The RIGEL systems take care of the decoys systems. The ship is also armed with a defensive system. The defensive system is taken care by 4 20mm guns and a heavier 12.77 mm machine gun takes charge of the longer range threats. The ship is powered by a diesel-electric propulsion unit. The first of the ship under this class the Juan Carlos was started in May 2005; the ship was launched on 10th March 2008 and was inducted to the Spanish forces on 30th September 2010. The total spending for the ship was estimated at around US$600 million

    Australia purchased two ships of the class which were designated as the Canberra-class LHD. Navantia was to complete the ship in Spain from keel to flight deck and then to be transferred to Australia for further development of system by BAE systems. The first o the ship under this class was named HMAS Canberra and was commissioned to the forces in November 2014. The second ship HMAS Adelaide is under construction and is expected to be delivered to the force by 2016. Turkey has opted for the Juan Carlos and is expected to be furnished under a ToT and the contract is signed for an expected $500 millions. 

    India has for long has had ideas of operating three main CBG’s and be backed by two small carriers that can effectively fulfill India’s need for monitoring the EEZ without opting for the main CBG’s whose operations may cost in crores. The ship also promises an longer period of endurance in the high seas and can be used for operations across the Indian Ocean Region(IOR). Navantia has been part of India’s Nava technology for quite some time and with tie ups to L&T the position of Navantia has only been compounded. But Juan Carlos currently has an Diesel-Electric propulsion system against India’s need for an all exclusive Electric propulsion system. The maximum speed attained by Juan Carlos is only 21 Nautical miles which crosses India’s requirements by a very small margin. The podded thrusters have again been used in the design. But if Navantia and L&T comes up with an newer design Juan Carlos can surely be one of the ships Indian Navy would like to operate.

Article-Karthik Kakoor

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