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Rising Power: India Is Building More Aircraft Carriers

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https://www.reutersconnect.com/all?id=tag%3Areuters.com%2C2001%3Anewsml_RP2DRIHJDEAA&share=true


Rising Power: India Is Building More Aircraft Carriers
Watch out, China.

by Robert Farley Follow drfarls on TwitterL
Key point: Carriers are costly and difficult to build well. However, New Delhi is up for the task as India seeks to be a truly great power.

With one large carrier in service and another on the way, India has become one of the world’s pre-eminent naval aviation powers. How did the program come about? Where is it going? And what is the strategic rationale for India’s massive investment in aircraft carriers?

The Origins of India’s Carriers

Despite considerable economic challenges, India took carrier aviation very seriously in the years after independence. Unlike China (or even the Soviet Union), India focused on carriers instead of submarines. INS Vikrant, a Majestic-class light carrier, served from 1961 until 1997, fighting effectively in the 1971 war. INS Viraat, formerly the Centaur-class carrier HMS Hermes, joined the Indian Navy in 1987 and served until 2016. These carriers gave the Indian Navy long-term experience in carrier ops, as well as a compelling organizational logic for maintaining a carrier capability.

The Current Situation

By the early 2000s, Viraat was showing her age. The supply of second-hand carriers, long dominated by the Royal Navy’s World War II relics, had narrowed considerably. Instead of building a new ship itself, India determined to acquire an older Soviet carrier, the former Kiev-class warship Admiral Gorshkov, which had been out of service since the 1990s. India paid in excess of $2 billion for a massive reconstruction that left the ship nearly unrecognizable, with a ski-jump deck and transformed weapon systems. When accepted into service in 2014, the new 45,000-ton INS Vikramaditya could operate around twenty MiG-29K fighters, along with utility helicopters. Despite cost-overruns and serviceability problems, the ship offered the Indian Navy the chance to redevelop its aviation muscles after years of operating only VSTOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) aircraft from Viraat.
Vikramaditya was only the first step towards recapitalizing the aviation wing of the Indian Navy. The second step was the new INS Vikrant, a 40,000-ton ski-jump carrier built in India’s Cochin Shipyard. Laid down in 2009, Vikrant is expected to finally enter service around 2020, with an air wing similar to that of Vikramaditya. The construction process has witnessed a number of setbacks, many of which are to be expected from a first effort at carrier construction.

For the time being, India has decided to stick with the MiG-29K as its primary naval combat aircraft, rather than the Su-33, the F/A-18 or the Dassault Rafale. Both Boeing and Dassault remain at least somewhat hopeful of exporting carrier-borne fighters to India. Even Saab expressed an interest in converting the Gripen for naval service. The Indian Navy also contemplated developing a navalized version of the HAL Tejas, but (for now) has wisely rejected the complicated effort to convert the troubled fighter.

Strategic Rationale

India’s carrier force has developed a three-pronged rationale for its purpose. The first prong is support of a conventional war against Pakistan, which would involve strikes against Pakistani naval assets and land bases. Unfortunately, Vikrant and Vikramadityawould struggle in strike operations because of limitations on aircraft weight, although they certainly would attract Pakistani attention. Second, the carriers make the Indian Navy the preeminent force in the Indian Ocean, better able to command the area than any foreign competitor. Indian carriers will always have better access to bases and support facilities in the Indian Ocean than China, the United Kingdom, or even the United States, and the presence of the carriers facilitates the projection of Indian power and the management of trade protection.
The third prong involves geopolitical competition with China. With the anticipated commissioning of its second large carrier, China has managed to leapfrog Indian naval aviation development in a relatively short period of time. Although China lacks India’s experience with carriers, it boasts a remarkably efficient shipbuilding industry and an increasingly sophisticated aviation sector, making it less dependent on foreign technology. Although India may struggle to keep up with Chinese construction, it can leverage geography (proximity to bases) to its advantage in the most likely areas of any conflict.

What to Expect from the Indian Navy

The next step in India’s naval aviation project will be INS Vishaal, a 65,000-ton conventionally propelled, domestically produced CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) carrier. With experience gleaned from the experience with Vikrant, the design and construction of the carrier will hopefully go more smoothly. It appears as if India will have unprecedented access to U.S. technology for the construction of Vishaal, including the EMALS electromagnetic catapult system used on the Gerald R. Ford class. Unlike Vikrant or Vikramaditya, Vishaal will be able to launch and recover heavy strike aircraft, as well as early warning planes such as the E-2 Hawkeye. Vishaal is supposed to enter service by 2030, although that timeline may be optimistic.

More recently, a spate of rumors has suggested that India might try to acquire one of the variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Deciding to buy the F-35 (and then going through with it) would deeply tax India’s military procurement bureaucracy, however, and would require a great deal of forbearance from U.S. export control officials. Still, the F-35C is the world’s most modern carrier fighter, and INS Vishaal could surely operate the plane.

Next Steps

By the early 2030s, India plans to have three active carriers. At that point, the next presumed step will be to replace INS Vikramaditya; although lightly used, her hull is already thirty years old, and she will be less capable than the other two ships. If Vishaal is at all acceptable, India’s best bet would be simply to build more of that design, which would allow the capture of construction efficiencies will also enabling incremental improvements. Although the Indian Navy has toyed with the idea of nuclear propulsion, it really doesn’t need a nuclear carrier; the strategic tasks of the navy should keep it relatively close to home, and building nuclear propulsion into the design would result in three different carriers with three different designs, limiting efficiency and co-operability.

Conclusion

India has committed to carrier aviation, and has the resources and experience to develop a successful force. However, India still faces some big decisions, including the choice of a new carrier fighter and the design characteristics of its flagship class of fleet carriers. Much will depend on how successfully India masters the difficulties of large-scale shipbuilding, and how well it integrates new technologies into the design and construction process.
 

CHI RULES

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India having relatively close proximity with Pak, has some disadvantages as even with capable AD provided by warships accompanying the carrier it shall always be in risk to targeted successfully by long range missiles of Pak currently in range of 280-700 KM+. Obviously the range and guidance systems shall be improved by PN for naval purposes in near future. Though IN may keep them far away in friendly territories yet PNs coming subs shall also be a bigger threat.
 

Kargil 2.0

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India having relatively close proximity with Pak, has some disadvantages as even with capable AD provided by warships accompanying the carrier it shall always be in risk to targeted successfully by long range missiles of Pak currently in range of 280-700 KM+. Obviously the range and guidance systems shall be improved by PN for naval purposes in near future. Though IN may keep them far away in friendly territories yet PNs coming subs shall also be a bigger threat.
Wrong. India will just move it's AC to eastern cost and Andaman & nicobar island.. far away from mainland... and yes.. only long term threat from Pakistan navy is from there submarines... but after 26-27th Feb fiasco last year.. we managed to track not just ship planes but all your subs to.. including the one hiding far away at your western coast.
 

Kargil 2.0

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India will be investing massively in Submarines... specially nuclear one from now on.
 

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Wrong. India will just move it's AC to eastern cost and Andaman & nicobar island.. far away from mainland... and yes.. only long term threat from Pakistan navy is from there submarines... but after 26-27th Feb fiasco last year.. we managed to track not just ship planes but all your subs to.. including the one hiding far away at your western coast.
Effectively taking it out of any conflict with Pakistan.
You got that wrong buddy, it was your sub that was detected post 27th. IN kept looking for PNS Saad for 2+ weeks
 

CHI RULES

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Wrong. India will just move it's AC to eastern cost and Andaman & nicobar island.. far away from mainland... and yes.. only long term threat from Pakistan navy is from there submarines... but after 26-27th Feb fiasco last year.. we managed to track not just ship planes but all your subs to.. including the one hiding far away at your western coast.
In case of hostile countries it is quite common that subs for some time enter in enemy waters and then come back. You may detect one or two subs but cannot detect half a dozen or more modernized and stealthy subs. As for Andaman & Nicobar island they already have nuclear sites which are quite in range of Pak missiles. Meanwhile subs with 600-700KM range missiles and more stealthy than one your navy detected reportedly after much hustle and bustle of days can still target ACs .
 

CHI RULES

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Effectively taking it out of any conflict with Pakistan.
You got that wrong buddy, it was your sub that was detected post 27th. IN kept looking for PNS Saad for 2+ weeks
He has already mentioned and reports suggested that IN found Pak sub in Pakistani waters, meanwhile he has not mentioned at what depth the sub was found. Further PN Agosta 90 subs are already passing through upgrade phase and shall be more stealthier in any future conflict.
 

mtime7

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Are you guys taking into account that India operates the P8 Posiden? That's a very capable bird.
 

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Are you guys taking into account that India operates the P8 Posiden? That's a very capable bird.
A machine, is only as capable, as the man behind it.
 

mtime7

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I probably shouldn't say this, some things are better left unsaid, but the P8 eats 70's era subs for brunch. They aren't even a good training mission in an inclosed sea.
 

Khafee

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agree. Past has repeatedly shown Indian man are up to the task. No wonder they smash Pakistani navy to oblivion in 71.
That is a fairy tale Indians like to sing, no that the world buys their rhetoric, especially in light of such a ridiculous track record.





The above is just an example of thier incompetence. A text book case, in how not to run a navy. Nonetheless, If you are going to live in the past you are going to keep embarrassing yourself, no one else.
 
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