Sea Platforms

Plans for India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier continue to stall

09 July 2018
INS Vikramaditya (foreground) pictured in company with INS Viraat in early 2014. Viraat was formally decommissioned in March 2017, leaving the IN with just one carrier in operation. Source: Indian Navy

The Indian Navy’s (IN’s) longstanding plan to build and commission its second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2) into service by 2030–32 has been further postponed due to steadily declining budgets, technological hurdles, and, above all, enduring delays by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in approving the programme.

The proposed 65,000–70,000 tonne conventionally powered ‘flat top’ carrier – tentatively named Vishal (Grand) – capable of embarking 50–60 fixed- and rotary-wing platforms, attaining speeds of up to 30 kt, and projected to cost INR800–900 billion (USD11.65–13 billion) – is part of the IN’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCCP).

First announced in 2005 and later updated for the 15-year period until 2027, the MCPP envisages the IN fielding three carrier battle groups (CBGs): one for each seaboard and one in reserve. For the IN, CBGs incorporate its ‘sea control’ approach to regional power projection, helping shape the regional security environment and countering Chinese plans of fielding 5–6 carriers in the strategically vital Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

“The government needs to urgently take a call on approving the IAC-2, as that will determine whether or not China dominates India in the IOR,” former IN chief of staff Admiral Arun Prakash told Jane’s. If not, India will end up playing a subsidiary role in this region, he added.

The IN currently has just one aircraft carrier in operation: the 44,000-tonne refurbished Kiev-class carrier INS Vikramaditya (ex- Admiral Gorshkov ), with its MiG-29K/KuB (Fulcrum-D) fighter group. INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes ), the service’s second 23,900-tonne Centaur-class carrier, was decommissioned in March 2017 following 30 years of service.

By 2018–19, Vikramaditya was to have been supplemented by INS Vikrant, the 37,000-tonne Project 71 carrier with a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration that has been under construction since 2009 at Cochin Shipyard Limited, southern India.

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