As INS Vikrant Reborn, Attention Shifts to India’s ‘Blue Water’ Capacity

By next year India will have two aircraft carriers – INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant – and the debate still rages on whether we need a third as well.

First, go back to India’s naval history: 1971: INS Vikrant, a 19,500-ton Majestic-class warship, was deployed in the Bay of Bengal. Its two air squadrons of Sea Hawk fighter jets and Alizé surveillance planes were used in strikes against ports, merchant ships and other targets, and to prevent Pakistani forces from escaping via roads. maritime. The port of Karachi was blocked, which essentially meant the surrender of Pakistani forces.

Fast forward to August 4, 2021: 50 years later, on Indian Navy Day, the force hailed the ‘proud and historic day for India as reincarnated Vikrant sails for her first sea trials …, in the 50th year of his illustrious predecessor’s key role in victory in the 1971 war ”.

The Native Aircraft Carrier (IAC) 1 will be called INS Vikrant once it enters service with the Indian Navy in about a year. It is the first aircraft carrier designed and built in India. The IAC-1 was designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy (DND) and is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), a public sector shipyard under the Ministry of Marine .

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The first Indian aircraft carriers were built either by the British or the Russians. INS Vikramaditya, the only aircraft carrier in the Indian Navy commissioned in 2013, was originally Soviet-Russian Admiral Gorshkov. The country’s first two aircraft carriers, INS Vikrant and INS Viraat, were originally the British-built HMS Hercules and HMS Hermes before entering service with the Navy in 1961 and 1987 respectively.

An aircraft carrier is one of a nation’s most powerful marine assets, improving a navy’s ability to travel far from its home coasts to conduct air domination operations.

Having an aircraft carrier is essential to being considered a “blue water” navy – one with the capacity to carry a nation’s strength and power on the high seas.

The IAC, according to the Indian Navy, is the “largest and most complex warship ever designed and built in India”, and a significant achievement in “our pursuit of the Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India initiative”. The Navy said the IAC will operate the Russian-built MiG-29K fighter jet and Kamov-31 early warning helicopters; locally made advanced light helicopters (ALH); and the soon-to-be inducted MH-60R multirole helicopters manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

The Navy has also pushed for a 65,000-ton warship, but the government is still assessing the need for a third aircraft carrier. The Navy believes a third aircraft carrier is an operational necessity – Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Karambir Singh said on Navy Day (December 3) last year that the navy did not want to remain “tied to the shore” and “air power to the sea is absolutely necessary”.

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The 40,000 tonne warship’s keel was laid in February 2009, and she was floated at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), which built her, in December 2011. Basin tests were completed in November 2020, and the ship is expected to be commissioned with the Navy by August 2022.

With seas on three sides and high mountains on the fourth, India has been said to be in the very bosom of the Indian Ocean. India has the second largest peninsula in the world. This translates to a coastline of 5,422 km, the peripheral island territories of India add an additional 2,094 km, which represents a total coastline length of 7,516 km.

As India’s naval force grows, there is debate as to whether India needs more aircraft carriers or submarines. The Chief of the Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat said: “Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Submarines have their own place in naval warfare, just like an aircraft carrier. I am by no means saying that the Navy does not need its air squadron. But how to manage it and how to ensure the safety and the sanctity of our maritime lines of communication that we are thinking about, ”he said.

He hinted at an alternative to the aircraft carrier. “I think you also have to look at our island territories which we have in large numbers. If we can leverage our island territories to our advantage, then we can balance… this can be used as territories to launch naval strike aircraft or do we need an aircraft carrier? Once we have studied all of this in detail, we will take a call, ”he said.

On December 3, on the eve of last year’s Navy Day, Indian Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Karambir Singh said the Navy was determined to acquire a third carrier. planes. “As a navy, we are absolutely clear on the usefulness of a third aircraft carrier,” Admiral Singh said at a press conference.

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