Beyond the Russian Mistral

August 29, 2009 · Posted in Amphibious Warfare, Marines · Comment 

Russia appears interested in expanding their expeditionary and amphibious standoff capabilities by purchasing French Mistral class amphibious assault warships. Great story and well covered and discussed in the blogs/journal articles below.

Thoughts on the Mistral at Information Dissemination

Russia Scopes Fancy Imports in Window-Shopping Weapons-Buying Spree at Wired: Danger Room

The big question in my mind after reading all of this was how well is Russia positioned in terms of ship to shore connectors to support operations from a Mistral?

Helicopter capacity is 16 heavy helicopters with 6 landing spots on deck. Using the French NH-90 as a metric you can get roughly the same number of the KA-29 B Assault helicopters on board. The problem though is the first KA-29 B IOC’d in 1985 and I can only assume that by the time one of these ships comes into service very few would be left if any at all and something new would have to be developed or purchased. Quickly looking at what the Russian military helicopter industry is doing the MI-38 is likely to replace army transports and its stats are not extremely different then the existing KA-29 or French NH-90 although it is bigger.

Name Height Length Rotor Diameter Max Speed Troop Capacity
NH-90 5.23 m (17 ft 2 in) 16.13 m (52 ft) 16.30 m (53 ft 5¾ in) 300 km/h (186mph) 20
KA-29 B 5.5 m (18 ft) 10.4 m (34 ft) 15.75 m (51.64 ft) 270 km/h (166mph) 16
MI-38 5.13 m (16 ft 10 in 19.70 m (64 ft 8 in) 21.10 m (69 ft 3 in) 275 km/h (171mph) 32
* All data pulled from internet (wikipedia) and correlated with at least one other source (internet or Combat Fleets).

Landing craft capacity for the Mistrals is roughly 2 LCAC (assume US LCAC pictured above is the metric) or 4 LCM’s. A quick look shows the Russian Zubr and Aist type LCAC are definitely out as they are much too large and there are very few Lebed LCAC’s left in service (again IOC’d sometime in the early to mid eighties) although they have operated from Ivan Rogov class amphibious warships (see picture below) in the past. There are several other types of Russian LCAC’s but there are no current LCAC type projects specifically suited for well deck operations.  If Russia chooses the slower LCM path they do have several types that may be suitable although very old and slow. In any case, Russia would have to develop or purchase new landing craft to support the Mistral although given their experience they’re positioned well to do so. My only other thought is maybe a new Chinese LCAC design or investment in the CNIM French L-CAT program. If they’re willing to buy Mistral its not a stretch to think they’d go import for their landing craft choice too.

Finally there is the amphibious vehicle option with the Mistral’s capability to carry 59 vehicles of different types. Russian Naval Infantry Brigades do employ BTR-80 APC, PT-76 amphibious Tanks and possibly a few BMP-3 IFV types however like most navies vehicles like these suffer from range, speed and sea state limitations that other methods of landing do not. Fact even employing them generally forces the amphibious force close to shore generally negating their standoff advantage. I can’t see any Navy really investing more in this until these limitations are overcome and given that no nation has really solved this it would be a major project.

So clearly if the Russia does purchase Mistral class ships they’ll have to make a significant investment in ship to shore connectors as well. Most of their current gear is old but they’re experienced enough to build and could certainly buy as well.   It’ll be interesting to see if this purchase pans out which way the Russians will go and how it will shape the naval infantry in the years to come.

Indian Amphibious Capability

May 25, 2009 · Posted in Amphibious Warfare, India, Marines, Order of Battle · 4 Comments 


While doing some other research I got curious as to how well India could carry out amphibious landings. So did some research…

2009 INS Amphibious Ships and Lift:

Class and # Range and Speed Land Craft Helicopters Lift
Shardul LST (3) 3000 m/14 knts 4 LCVP 1 Sea King 11 MBT or 500 Troops
Magar LST (2) 3000 m/14 knts 4 LCVP 1 Sea King 15 MBT
Polnocny C/D LSM (5) 975 m/13 knts Light vehicles or 140 Troops
Vasco De Gama LCM (6) 1000 m/8 knts 2 Light tanks and 287 Troops
Jalashwa LPD (1) 7700 m/20 knts 4 LCM 6 Sea King Numerous Vehicles, 900 + Troops.
8000 TDX Hovercraft(Coast Guard) (6) 362 m/42 knts 80 Troops


Name and Number Combat Radius Speed Lift
Sea King Mk 42 C (6) ~400 miles 144 mph 27 Troops


Landing Craft Name and Number Range and Speed Lift
LCM8 (4) from Jalashwa 190 miles/9 knts 2 vehicles or 150 Troops or 60 tns cargo
Sea Truck Type LCVP 220 miles/11knts 1 small vehicle or 30 Troops
BMP-2 Sarath IFV Sea 5knts 7 Troops
* Most data from Combat Fleets 2007 with Wikipedia filling a few holes with landing craft information.

Experts could go into more detail but from an amateur’s viewpoint this is an amphibious Navy still designed to beach. The only amphibious standoff capability is INS Jalashwa with LCM 8 landing craft and Sea King helicopters and this would at most would only be able to stage one battalion’s worth of troops. Ultimately as a navy you need to acquire stand off capable platforms that can stay out of SSM range with fast long ranged connectors that give the flexibility to land when and how needed. The INS just isn’t capable yet above a battalion or so.

There is evidence though that India is serious about acquiring better amphibious capabilities.

First, its published was published in their Maritime Strategy (2007).

Expeditionary Operations

The new strategy recognizes that influencing events on land is one of the primary roles of the Indian Navy. This in itself translates into the ability to conduct operations in the littoral, albeit in a phased manner. Important contributions made by enhanced MDA, manoeuvre from the sea, sea control, sea denial, littoral warfare, and amphibious operations in conduct of expeditionary operations have been recognized. Direct delivery of ordnance from stand-off ranges, both through land attack missiles and by carrier-based aircraft would be accorded priority. Critical capabilities in strategic sealift, heavy-lift helicopters and air cushion vehicles are being augmented. In addition, a fully trained land-fighting force would require close integration of Amphibious, Marine, and Special Forces of the three services. Creation of a Joint Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) along with a Joint HQ would considerably enhance our capability to conduct expeditionary operations

Next the Indian Navy has made significant financial investments in amphibious warfare with the purchase of a Cold War era US Austin class LPD and the completion of 5 LST’s of the indigenous Magar/Shardul classes.  INS Jalashwa (picture above left) was purchased from the United States and commissioned in 2007. This Austin class LPD gives the INS more range, lift capacity and flexibility then its ever had as well as a first step toward a amphibious standoff capability. Likewise the Magar/Shardul (INS Kesari pictured above right) classes of LST’s have increased lift and range than the ancient Polnocny class LSM’s and Vasco De Gama class LCM’s in the Indian inventory. 

Future procurements are certain but unclear. The INS was reported to be interested in acquiring USS Nashville however it appears that the Indian Navy may have declined. Global Security does report that India is looking for many more LST’s, LCU’s and a new class of LPH by 2020. However, there are no sources listed and not very much out in the various BBS’s are backed up by another source. So for now it appears they’re certainly interested however actual designs don’t appear to have been established yet.

Finally and maybe most important, India has has taken some big organizational steps toward an amphibious capability. 

The first is committing land formations to the amphibious warfare mission. The 91st Infantry Brigade of the Sudarshan Chakra Corps was formed in 2009. This dedicated force should reach 5,000 troops in strength and be composed of at least 3 true combat infantry battalions with modern command, engineering, signals and artillery support. India will still continue the tradition of pairing other capabilities with ships (5th Armored Regiment affiliated with INS Shardul) and the utilizing thethe MARCOS Marine Commando force in a the special operations role.

The second is a commitment to education and development of theory and practice. This includes the opening of an amphibious warfare school  and planned amphibious exercises. The school is located outside of Kakinda and in close proximity to where the 91st and fleet support facilities will be located. India also carried out a series of planned amphibious exercises this year called Tropex 2009. You can find some photos here and the intent of what kind of capabilities they are trying to develop are clear.

Th story is that while India is currently well behind they’re moving forward and if you’re doing any gaming/modeling of these forces its probably best to assume that they have no standoff capability above battalion level and would most likely have to beach at least until the 2020 time period (or so).

Anyways curiosity cured. Hope this helps you! If anybody has any more information on this please do post!