New Delhi, 28 September
As a measure to economically
increase its inventory the Indian Navy may consider the acquisition
of platforms of Western nations who may decommission them as they no
longer suit their needs as also their manpower costs are enormous.
The UK was reported to go in for three new large Aircraft Carriers
with the American made Future Combat Aircraft, which will also be
capable of vertical landing.
Hence the Royal Navy's HMS
Invincible is projected for early decommissioning in 2006. A serious
effort to procure this ship, which serves as one of the finest
multi-purpose naval platforms of the present generation, will be
invaluable in fulfilling vital roles of Command Cruiser (CC),
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) platform and a Landing Platform
Helicopter (LPH) in an amphibious assault role. The ship is powered
by Combined Gas turbine And Gas turbine (COGAG), consisting of four
Rolls Royce Olympus TM3B gas turbine engines generating 97,000hp,
providing a speed of 28 knots. At the economical speed of 19 knots
the range of the ship is 7000 miles. HMS Invincible completed a
refit as recent as in March 2003.
Incidentally it was reported the
Indian Navy did make an effort to procure a specialized CC during
early 1990s. During the "Black Sea Fleet crisis"
immediately after the "break up" of the Soviet Union the
Indian Navy tried to obtain 'Zhdanov' that served as the CC of the
Soviet Black Sea Fleet. 'Zhdanov', a traditional handsome
twin-funneled Sverdlov class gun armed cruiser (CA) completed
modification as specialized Command Cruiser (CC) in 1973 and had her
third 152-mm turret replaced by a tall deckhouse, probably housing a
new signals department. A tall tripod mast with lattice supports
carrying V-Cone HF antennae was constructed forward of the new
deckhouse. An SA-N-4 'Gecko' missile "bin" was installed
on top of the deckhouse, with its Pop Group guidance radar on a
platform projecting from the new tripod mainmast. Four twin 30-mm
mountings together with their Fire Control (FC) radars were fitted
around the fore-funnel. A helicopter-landing circle replaced the
mine-rails on the quarterdeck.
A sister-ship of Zhdanov's 末
'Admiral Senyavin' was more extensively modified. In addition to
"Zhdanov modification" both the rear turrets were removed
for construction of an enlarged hanger for two Kamov-25 'Hormone'
helicopters. 'Admiral Senyavin' served as the flagship CC of the
Soviet Pacific Fleet.
The extensive Command & Control
facilities of the modified Zhdanov were backed up by its original
armament of impressive 152-mm guns 末 nine of them in three
turrets 末 which were retained for ship-to-shore bombardment
operations. However the "Zhdanov deal" had to be scuttled
due to payment complications regarding the share to be paid to the
sellers. If media reports were true the ship was to be sold at a
throwaway price of only 2.2 million pounds!
The HMS Invincible, a
"through-deck Cruiser" was built by Vickers Shipbuilding
and Engineering (now BAE Systems Marine) at Barrow-in-Furness and
was commissioned in July 1980. The role of the 20,600t aircraft
carrier was envisaged as a command headquarters for the task group
and to support the operations of the Vertical/Short Take Off and
Landing (V/STOL) aircraft and helicopters. Thus extensive "Flag
Facilities" were incorporated right from the start. For the
amphibious assault role the ship has facilities to accommodate a
force of 500 marines.
The ship served with distinction
during the Falklands campaign of 1982 fulfilling its multi-role
obligations although it was lucky enough to escape destruction from
a murderous Argentine "Exocet air attack" that destroyed
the high-profile troop transporter 'Atlantic Conveyer'. A tactical
"zig-zag" pattern of movement was practised during the
Falkland campaign to avoid sub-surface attacks while strike missions
of Sea Harrier FRS.1s were conducted at carefully chosen intervals.
The elaborate combat data system
now is BAE SYSTEMS ADIMP with communication links 末 Link 10,
Link 11 and Link 14. Following the refit, HMS Invincible has had the
combat system upgraded with new multi-function consoles and
flat-panel colour displays and the secure satellite communications
system, the Astrium (formerly Matra Marconi) SCOT.
The BAE SYSTEMS Type 996 surface
search radar antennae are mounted very high on the tower between the
two funnels operating on E and F-bands. BAE SYSTEMS Type 1022
air-search radar operates on D-band. HMS Invincible is equipped with
the Kelvin Hughes Type 1006 navigation radar operating on I-band.
The sonar system is the hull-mounted Type 2016 active/passive search
and attack sonar by Thales Underwater Systems.
For ECM the Invincible is fitted
with the Thales Defence Type 675(2) jamming system and a UAT(8),
Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system. The ship's decoy system is
the Royal Navy's Outfit DLJ with Sea Gnat.
HMS Invincible has three Thales
Nederland Goalkeeper Close-In Weapons System (CIWS). Goalkeeper's
Gatling principle 30mm gun provides a maximum firing rate of 4,200
rounds/min with a range of 1,500-m and effectively throws a
"blanket" of high-density shells before an incoming
airborne threat including Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM). The ship is
also equipped with two GAM-B01 20-mm anti-aircraft artillery that
have a maximum range of 2-km and firing rate of 1,000 rounds/min. If
procurement is made the Navy could easily install an appropriate
point-defence SAM on the vessel. A credible point-defence SAM will
ensure destruction of air threats at sufficient distance and avoid
damage of the ship even from the debris.
Invincible was originally armed
with a Sea Dart twin Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher,
installed on the forecastle of the ship near the ski-ramp. The Sea
Dart SAM however proved ineffective during Falklands campaign since
the Argentine Navy was familiar with this particular SAM system. The
Argentine Navy did procure two British Type 42 Sheffield Class
destroyers naming them 'Hercules' and 'Santisima Trinidad' armed
with Sea Dart SAM and during the conflict most Argentine air attacks
were made outside the performance spectrum of Royal Navy Sea Dart
equipped ships. Presently the missile system has been removed and
the flight deck extended, to provide more capacity for aircraft and
enable take-off for Royal Air Force (RAF) Harrier GR.7/9 aircraft.
The ship's flight-deck runway is
about 170-m long with a ski ramp set at 12 degrees. The ship
supports nine Harrier aircraft including both the Royal Air Force
(RAF) GR7/GR9 Harrier II and the Royal Navy (RN) FA2 Sea Harrier,
now operated by the combined RAF/RN Joint Force Harrier 末 a
conception that both Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) will do
well to emulate. Rotary-wing components include nine Sea King HAS 6
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters and three Sea King AEW 2
and ASaC Mk 7 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopters.
While various versions of Advanced
Light Helicopter (ALH) 'Dhruv' and compact Kamov-28 ASW and Kamov-31
AEW will be natural choices for rotary-wing components, the Navy
will do well to procure the well maintained part of Sea Harrier FA2
with decent Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capability. As naval
manoeuvres during Kargil conflict had demonstrated, subject to
innovation and will, V/STOL fighters can be operated from makeshift
decks of tankers and perhaps even from Light Cruisers/Destroyers if
the situation demands. Moreover the Sea Harrier force can be rapidly
based on makeshift runways on strategic points once an enemy
beachhead or further inland is properly secured.
'Invincible' if inducted into the
Navy will be able to serve as a dedicated multipurpose assault ship
capable of embarking V/STOL strike fighters and assault helicopters/gunships
for sustained ship to shore offensive operations. In addition the
ship will also serve as battle-proven command and control platform
of any amphibious operations.
The Navy will additionally need at
least two Landing Platform Docks (LPD) similar to Russian 14,000 ton
plus Ivan Rogov class 'Mitrofan Moskalenko' or French 11,880 ton 'Foudre'.
The objective should be to embark battalion-sized marines at various
strategic points along with their equipment, armour and vehicles at
a "short notice" and disperse them quickly from the
landing or DZ (Dropping Zone) before any adequate enemy response.
This nucleus force could be supported by an adequate number of
landing vessels and platforms like "Roll-on Roll-off"
vessels and Landing Ship Tank (LST). Political treaties should
provide us access to distant bases for amassing propositioned stocks
at strategic points.
With the emergence Indian Navy's active
collaboration with United States Navy and navies of littoral States
in the Indian Ocean region, amphibious operations should gain
immense importance in the visions of the higher echelons of the
Navy. And there lies the importance of multi-purpose platforms like