To overcome shortcomings brought to the fore by last year's tsunami disaster, Indian Navy plans to augment its strategic sea-lift capability by acquiring huge Landing Platform Docks (LPD) from the United States.
This was indicated by Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, while addressing the Naval Commanders Conference, which began here today.
"One of the major lessons learnt from last year's tsunami was the requirement to augment sea-lift capability. This calls for acquiring large amphibious vessels and the Navy is keenly examining the offer of a LPD by the US Navy under Government- to-Government sales", he said.
India is negotiating purchase of US Navy's 7,050-tonne displacement LPD, 'USS Trenton', at an estimated cost of Rs 200 crores. The ship which can operate a number of giant helicopters simultaneously has still another 15 years of sea-worthy life.
At Present Indian Navy has only two large landing ship tanks, which can only operate a single Seaking helicopter. Navy can modify the LPD to build such larger vessels in India, officials said.
Noting that lack of maritime surveillance punch as another "area of concern", the Naval Chief said Navy was negotiating offers to augment this capability. US Navy has recently offered to lease four P3C Orions to India to train Indian Navy pilots.
The Naval chief said the stellar role played by the force in the aftermath of the tsunami had raised expectations from India in the neighbourhood. "The Navy's diplomatic role has thus expanded. We stand to reap rich dividends in terms of neighbourhood goodwill from such active international role," Prakash said adding it was towards this purpose that the Navy had set up a foreign- relations cell at the Naval Headquarters.
Prakash also told the top Naval Commanders that Government had accorded sanction to increasing the number of civilian employees in the force.
He said about 1,900 civilians would be recruited for the Project Seabird and the new Naval academy at Ezhimala in Kerala, which would raise the civilians workforce in Navy to about 46,000.
The almost week-long conference would take stock of the security scenario around India's coastline, progress in warship-building as well as efforts to make the Navy into a network centric operation force.
Besides, the Flag officers Commanding-in-Chief of three Naval commands, Mumbai-based Western Naval Command, Eastern Naval Command at Vizag and Kochi-based Training command, Principal Staff officers at Naval Headquarters, Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff and Director General of Coast Guard are attending the conference.