Will the Indian Navy get a flat-top aircraft carrier? Here’s what we know.
The Indian Navy currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-origin INS Vikramaditya. INS Vikrant, the second carrier for the Navy, is being built indigenously and is likely to be inducted in the next two years. The Navy, however, has often aired its doctrinal need to be a three-carrier force — plan to build a third aircraft carrier, a flat-top, has been in discussion for years.
But now, it seems, the plan may have been junked, or put on the back-burner. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, answering a question on this issue in an interview with News18, dropped a hint on this development.
He was quoted as saying:
One aircraft carrier will be on the seas next year. You look at when do you really need a third one. If you get a third one, how many years will it take for it to develop? Even if you place the order for 2022 or 2023, it is not coming before 2033. Also, aircraft carrier is not just a carrier, along with it will have to come the aircraft. Where are the aircraft coming from? Along with that we will need the armada protection for that aircraft carrier. It does not happen overnight. It will be bought if it is required. But you cannot predict what the situation will be 10 years from now. We don’t know what will happen.Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat
This hint comes at a time when highly squeezed defence budgets have forced the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — to rethink their priorities. The CDS has been tasked with prioritising procurement of equipment from a long list of new and old demands that the three services have.
The plan to build the second indigenous aircraft carrier, named Vishal, has remained stalled since 2017 as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to accord financial clearance. The MoD believes that the defence budget "cannot cater for the exorbitant cost of an aircraft carrier”, says this report.
There is one more hint. According to Livefits, the Indian Navy’s plan to buy 57 carrier-based fighters are only meant to meet the combined requirement of INS Vikramaditya and the upcoming Vikrant.
“The 57 deck-based fighters (DBF) has is to meet the combined additional requirement of the current and next carrier, in addition to a training squadron we will be raising. Any conversation about aircraft for the proposed IAC2/Vishal will necessarily be only in the future,” Livefist quoted a Navy source as saying.
During the Defence Expo in Lucknow earlier this month, Boeing had revealed that it will test the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the fighter it has offered to India for the 57 multirole carrier-based fighters (MCRBF) requirement, from a shore-based ski jump. Its competitor, Dassault Rafale, which has offered Rafale-M to the Indian Navy, has already conducted simulations of the fighter on a ski-jump.
The third carrier, however, was planned as a flat-top equipped with a catapult-based launch system which is fundamentally different from a ski-jump.