Over 300 sailors from the Indian Navy are getting ready to take home USS Trenton, an amphibious transport warship, the first American-made vessel to join India's growing blue water fleet.
This first ever transfer of the US Navy ship to the Indian Navy is viewed as a significant event in the evolving Indo-US relationship with free and open access to sea considered an important and critical challenge by both navies.
Formally called a Landing Platform Dock (LPD), the 17,000-tonne Austin-class ship will be handed over to India at a ceremony Jan 17 at the Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia, where Indian sailors have been training with the Trenton crew since early November.
It will then set sail for Visakhapatnam for likely induction into the Eastern Naval Command as INS Jalashva (Sanskrit for seahorse) to provide the Indian Navy an enhanced capability to move troops and equipment to great distances and remain off shore for a long time.
It will be India's second-largest warship, second only to the 28,000-tonne Hermes-class aircraft carrier INS Viraat. Besides landing troops during war and rescue operations, it can also function as a command and control platform during offshore and mid-sea mishaps.
Built by Lockheed at a cost of more than $400 million and commissioned in 1971, the amphibious ship has a complement of 28 officers and 480 men, and can transport nearly 1500 marines. The Trenton is being sold to India for about $48 million under a US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
India has also purchased four Mark Eight landing craft and six H-3 Sea King helicopters to operate from the 173-metre-long vessel that has seen action in Somalia, Liberia and Lebanon among other places, landing US troops and rescuing American citizens.
The keel of Trenton, the third ship of the United States Navy to be named after the capital of New Jersey, was laid down at Seattle, Washington, Aug 8 1966. It was launched two years later Aug 3, 1968.