Indian Navy adds punch with its first US warship
By Arun Kumar, Norfolk (US), June 22: The Indian Navy Friday commissioned its first warship acquired from the US as INS Jalashwa (Sea Horse), marking a quantum jump in integral sealift and airlift capabilities of Indian maritime forces.
With the acquisition of an old US warhorse, the USS Trenton, India joins a select group of nations operating a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) giving it enhanced capability to move troops and equipment to greater distances in furtherance of its maritime interests.
The first of its class to be inducted into the Indian Navy, the ship was commissioned Friday by Indian Ambassador to the United States Ronen Sen at an impressive ceremony at Norfolk in Virginia, about 230 km from Washington. Indian Naval Attaché Commodore P. Murugesan and senior US naval officers attended the commissioning ceremony.
Commanded by Captain B.S. Ahluwalia and manned by a crew of 27 officers and 302 sailors, INS Jalashwa will sail to India after completing various trials and certifications at Norfolk.
The induction of INS Jalashwa not only marks an important milestone in the Indo-US relationship but also provides the Indian Navy a platform to influence events on land from the sea. It has the ability to transport and launch large numbers of combat or relief forces complete with their equipment.
Jalashwa is 173 metres long and 32 metres wide. It has a large flight deck and a well deck the size of two basketball courts in the aft section. With gross tonnage of 16,900 tons, it is Indian Navy's second largest combat platform after the aircraft carrier Viraat.
The ship has a unique capability to increase her draft by flooding the tanks in a part of its internal space. The flooded internal space, called the well deck, provides a haven for assault crafts to embark and disembark troops and cargo inside the ship. The assault crafts drive in and out of the well deck.
The ship can carry 968 fully equipped troops and over 130 different types of vehicles. Six UH-3H utility helicopters and four Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM) have also been acquired from the US Navy and would be deployed on INS Jalashwa. The aircraft and LCMs are deployed to achieve the ship-to-shore transfer.
The flight deck of Jalashwa is the size of two tennis courts and is capable of handling all types of helicopters. The flight deck can be used as emergency recovery deck for VSTOL (vertical/short take off and landing) aircraft such as the Sea-Harrier.
In peace time, Jalashwa will fulfil an extremely vital role of providing the Navy an ability to conduct large scale relief operations and humanitarian missions, the need for which was felt in the aftermath of the December 2004 Tsunami.
India's cabinet committee on security had approved the acquisition of the ship in July 2006. The Indian Navy had then deputed about 330 personnel who sailed with US sailors on USS Trenton for training in November and December 2006.
After its transfer to the Indian Navy on January 17, 2007, the ship underwent a routine maintenance period at the BAE systems shipyard at Norfolk.
In her previous "avatar" as USS Trenton, the ship took part in the evacuation of US citizens from Lebanon in 2006. It has also conducted several other non-combatant evacuation operations in Somalia, and Liberia.
Built by Lockheed at a cost of more than $400 million and commissioned in 1971, the amphibious ship has been sold to India for about $48 million under a US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.