Indian Navy Interested in USS Trenton

By Shashank Sinha


New Delhi, 09 August 2005

Warming up of IndoUS ties has opened up several possibilities in the mutual defence relationship. If recent press reports are to be believed the Indian Navy is eyeing the USS Trenton a landing platform dock (LPD), which is scheduled to be decommissioned by the US Navy in 2008.

Dock Landing Ships were developed during World War II as a means of transporting landing crafts (a large proportion of the hull of this type of craft is a floodable docking well), across the open seas and launching them in an assault on an enemy coast.  These ships constituted a vital part of the allied assaults on D Day landings and in other theaters. LPDs are still operated by major navies around the world and range from the USN’s latest ‘Whidbey Island’ Class to RN’s ‘Fearless’ Class and the Russian ‘Ivan Rogov’.

An ‘Austin’ class design, ‘Trenton’ (LPD14) is one of the older LPD classes now on the verge of being decommissioned. It was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding & Construction Co. and commissioned into service in March 1971. Vital statistics include a length of 173.4 meters, beam of 32 meters and a maximum displacement of 16914 tons. Two Foster Wheeler boilers, powering two De Laval GT turbines, driving two propellers provide a total of 24000 SHP to propel it to a max speed of 21 knots.

The ship is configured as a flagship and provides extensive command, control and communications facilities to support an Amphibious Task Force and Landing Force. In an amphibious assault, the ship normally functions as the Primary Control Ship that would be responsible for coordinating and vectoring landing craft to the beach. The ships can carry one landing craft air cushion (LCAC), or one utility landing craft (LCU) boat, or 24 amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), up to six medium helos and over 800 combat troops. To facilitate the docking and loading of various sized landing craft, the ship can ballast down in the water, thereby flooding the well deck to enable the landing craft to enter or exit the well deck through the stern gate door. The well decks have upper and lower vehicle storage areas, which hold most of the embarked troops' heavy combat equipment, such as tanks, tracked amphibious landing vehicles (AAV), jeeps and trucks. A large helicopter platform is built over the well deck in the rear of the vessel with two landing spots. Alternatively the ship can also act as an attack cargo ship carrying 2,000 tons of supplies and equipment. The electronic sensor suite comprises AN-SPS-40/SPS-60 air/surface search radar and SPS-64 navigation radar. Self defence is provided by two 25mm guns, two Phalanx CIWS and assorted machine guns.

A secondary mission is evacuation and civilian disaster relief, which can be of immense help in effectively managing Tsunami like natural calamities. In such a role, hundreds of tons of relief materials can be carried aboard and can be delivered to disaster victims very quickly by integral boats and deck launched helicopters. The ship also has a small hospital on board with limited berthing to treat the sick and injured.

All in all this is a very capable ship suitable for power projection in littoral regions with an ability to transport and launch powerful expeditionary forces. It also has an equally vital and relevant disaster relief role and would be a great asset for the IN. The only limiting factor is the elderly age of the class. The ‘Trenton’ itself is more than 30 years old and a proposed refit in 1988 was never done. However ships of this class have usually seen  4 decades and more of service in the USN and it would no doubt be extensively refitted for considerable life extension prior to the transfer.


Disclaimer   Copyright