India is planning to convert its Andaman and Nicobar tri-services command into an major amphibious warfare hub by setting up full-fledged training facilities and basing a sea-and-land fighting unit to provide teeth to its capability to take the battle into enemy shores.
With over 550 islands dotting the strategically located spot in the Bay of Bengal with near 500 of them still uninhabited, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide the Indian armed forces the ideal landscape to train its troops on amphibious warfare, which entails landing on the beaches of the enemy territory and taking the gun fight right into the mainland.
"There are plans to have an amphibious warfare training facility in the Andaman and Nicobar islands just as the jungle and guerrilla warfare school that the Army has in the North East.
"The hundreds of virgin islands here provide the ideal training facility for the troops to gain expertise in the specialist operations," a senior officer from the Andaman and Nicobar Command said in Port Blair.
The tri-services command in Port Blair, which came up in 2001 after a need for a joint all-service formation was felt, already has surface units to support amphibious operations, which are difficult manoeuvres considering that the troops are exposed to greater risks while entering open landscape in hostile territories.
The Command here already has naval surface vessels such as a large Landing Ship Tank (LST) that can carry about 220 fully armed troops along with six trucks, 10 main battle tanks and 12 infantry combat vehicles at the same time for long duration. In fact, it could carry 800-men battalion too for shorter duration.
The vessel also has a medium LST, apart from several Landing Craft Utility (LCU) with capacity to carry 35 armed troops right up to the beach and land there, the officer said.
The LST's support is very important for storming enemy land or bases to provide the shock effect with the armoured vehicles using their firepower to inflict maximum damage to the adversary.
The Command at present has a Brigade comprising three battalions -- two from the Army and one from the Territorial Army -- deployed in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The only dedicated amphibious warfare Brigade of the Army is currently posted somewhere in the south-eastern coast of India. Lakshwadeep Islands on the east coast is where the Army's Brigade currently carries out its practice session and exercises.
However, Andaman and Nicobar having a Command headquarters based in Port Blair would have a greater role to play in honing the skills of the Indian troops, the officer added.
Incidentally, India had only last year inducted an indigenously built Landing Pontoon Dock (LPD), a warship larger than LSTs that can support amphibious warfare and also act as a replenishment ship for navy battle ships operating away from the Indian waters.