India has restarted work on their aircraft carrier construction program, signing a set of $30 to $40 million an Italian firm. The contracts will cover ship design and propulsion integration. The Italian firm will apply its experience building the Cavour-class aircraft carrier for the Italian Navy to the project; the Cavour and the new Indian carrier will both use General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines for population.
Ultimately, the Indian Navy would like to have a total of three Air Defense Ships (ADS), one based on either coast, with the third used as a backup during maintenance or crisis periods. Currently, the Indians operate the INS Viraat, formerly HMS Hermes, and will keep it in service until 2009, when the 44,500 ton ex-Russian Admiral Gorshkov is expected to go into service. The other two 32,000 to 35,000 ton ADS ships would be built in India and carry around 14-16 navalized versions of the MiG-29 and around 20 helicopters for utility, anti-submarine, and anti-surface missions. India would like to get the first home-built ADS ship into service between 2010 and 2012.
Further south, the Australians are having a debate over purchasing two 25,000 ton landing helicopter dock (LHD) ships for service in 2010. The Labor Party would prefer a greater number of smaller amphib ships primarily directed to defending mainland Australia rather than emphasizing a capability for expeditionary operations. Labor believes that smaller landing platform docks (LPDs) would be less threatening to its neighbors and would be cheaper to build. The Navy and the current government are strongly supportive of the larger ships, saying that building and crewing two LHDs would be more cost-effective than a fleet of four LHDs, with cost savings in personnel, fuel, maintenance, and logistical support. Doug Mohney