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SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

A budget crunch has forced the Indian Navy to delay its plans to build its 3rd aircraft carrier. Instead, it will be building Six Nuclear Attack submarines, and due to the same issues it had to also cut down on its initial requirements for four Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) to two recently and after going through repeated tendering processes since 2013. Navy is again planning to issue a fresh ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP) with new specifications that will allow it to be used as an amphibious ship that can deliver tanks and armored carriers, and helicopters into a war zone.

It would be possible to add a ski jump to the flight deck of the proposed LPDs for STOVL operations along with the addition of aircraft elevators. But this will also limit which aircraft can be operated from a 205 meters deck when compared to INS Vikrant, which has a deck of 260 meters in length and will be able to operate both Mig-29K and TEDBF in near future. F-35B, which is a Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant is the only aircraft that will be able to operate from the LPDs that the Navy plans to operate.

Recently a scale model of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) equipped with an Automatic blade folding system sparked speculation on the development of a Naval Variant of LCH for Shipborne operations that were likely to be operated from the two LPDs that the Navy is keen on to procure. HAL is working on the development of a Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) that will have an Automatic blade folding system to be used on warships and it could not come as surprise if the same is adapted on Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) for shipborne operations.

Converting Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) into Mini-Aircraft carriers is nothing unheard of, In fact, Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer is being converted to have a ski jump to the flight deck so that it can operate 12 F-35B STOVL each from its two LPDs. Indian Navy is unlikely to get clearance for construction of 65000-ton new aircraft carrier before 2030, which will see induction in 2040. Russia too has been developing a VTOL aircraft since 2017, which would be deployed in the next seven to ten years that too could be an option if F-35B procurement is not cleared by US Administration.

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