India Buys Used American Helicopter Carrier
September 1, 2006: Thinking along the same lines as the Mexican navy, the Indian navy is buying a surplus carrier from the United States, for use as a disaster relief ship along India's enormous coastline. The Indians are paying $48 million for the former USS Trenton, an Austin class LPDs that entered service in 1971. This a large ship, 570 feet long and displacing 17,000 tons. The flight deck can hold half a dozen large helicopters, and support simultaneous landings and takeoffs. The well deck can hold up to 24 landing craft (like AAVs), or four lighter type boats, for transferring cargo and personnel. These ships require a crew of 420, and can carry up to 800 combat troops. The Indians are getting four smaller landing craft, to operate from their new LPD, as part of the deal, and are negotiating to buy navalized transport helicopters as well.
This LPDs is to be used as a floating helicopter bases and emergency response center. The troops berthing spaces could be used for storing relief supplies, in addition to the space already available for some 2,000 tons of supplies and equipment. There are also seven cranes on board (one 30-ton and six 4-ton cranes). The elevator from the flight deck to the hanger deck can carry eight tons. There are tanks for 224,500 gallons of aviation fuel and 119,000 gallons of vehicle fuel.
To build new, the Austin class ships would cost about a billion dollars each. They cost the U.S. Navy about two million dollars a month to operate, but the Indian navy, with a lower operating tempo and lower labor costs, could probably operate them for about half a million dollars a
month each. The Indian Navy has been operating smaller amphibious ships for decades, and has plenty of sailors experienced in this type of ship.
The only weapons carried were four automatic cannon for stopping anti-ship missiles or small boats. India may mount similar weapons, as their LPD could also be used for military operations.