Marines: Indian Fourth Generation

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June 13, 2018: In 2011 India decided to purchase eight more LCU (Landing Craft Utility) amphibious ships, to be designed and produced locally. The first of these Mk IV LCUs entered service in early 2017 and the fourth recently did so, forty years after the first Indian built Mk I LCU entered service. That LCU retired in 2011 after nearly four decades of service. The two Mk 1s were followed by three Mk IIs in the early 1980s. In the late 1980s, there were four Mk IIIs, which are still in service but will be gone when the remaining four Mk IVs arrive in the next few years.

Each class of Indian LCUs were a bit larger and more capable. LCUs were developed during World War II, and are still in wide use by nations that have lots of coastline, or nearby islands. That is India’s situation, with many islands and an enormous coastline. Indian LCUs spend most of their time dealing with natural disasters and other non-military emergencies. That is common with LCUs worldwide. But all of them tend to practice their military capabilities regularly.

The Mk IVs displace 1,000 tons loaded and are capable of landing cargo and vehicles right onto a beach. LCUs have a flat bottom and a ramp built into the front of the ship, which can be dropped into shallow water to allow armored vehicles or even tanks to leave the ship and move right onto the beach, or a pier. The Mk IVs are 63 meters (206 feet) long, have a top speed of 28 kilometers an hour and a range of 2,800 kilometers when cruising at 22 kilometers an hour. There is a crew of 56 and space for 160 troops and 145 tons of cargo or equipment. That means one heavy (65 ton) tank can be carried or four smaller armored vehicles. About 24 20 foot cargo containers can be stacked aboard. Armament is two 30mm autocannon, a 12.7mm machine-gun, several 7.62mm machine-guns and some shoulder fired portable surface to air missiles. Each Mk IV costs less than $80 million.

India has long had problems designing and building larger warships (frigates, carriers, subs). For decades India blamed colonialism for the decline of the Indian shipbuilding industry. But after other nations, with even less history of shipbuilding (China, South Korea), became world leaders in the industry Indians began to accept that the problems were Indian and not the fault of British colonialism (which brought the industrial revolution to India, where that industrialization process declined after the British left). By the 1990s the Indian government agreed that internal reforms were needed and since then India has made a lot of progress but is still way behind countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea in shipbuilding and new tech in general. The construction of smaller ships was another matter and Indian shipyards had been building those vessels for thousands of years but the introduction of all-metal commercial ships in the 19th century enabled many other nations to surpass India as a major ship builder.

 


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