With China setting a furious pace in construction of new aircraft carriers, and India in the danger of losing this combat and power projection edge in the Indian Ocean Region, the Navy now plans to take up afresh its long-pending case for a third aircraft carrier with the government.
The move comes after the Navy hosted defense minister Rajnath Singh on board its solitary aircraft carrier, the 44,400 tonne INS Vikramaditya, which operates the supersonic MiG-29K fighters from its deck, in the Arabian Sea during the weekend.
Sources say the aim was to showcase how a multi-dimensional carrier battle group (CBG), which can move around 500 nautical miles (900 km) in a single day, is formidably powerful and extremely flexible in providing a wide range of customized responses across the entire spectrum of warfare, be it presence, surveillance, deterrence, compulsion, intervention or war-fighting.
The 40,000 tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-I), or INS Vikrant, being built at Cochin Shipyard for Rs 19,590 crore, is slamed to become fully operational by 2022-2023 after several delays. But the defense ministry is yet to give even the initial approval for construction of the 65,000-tonne IAC-II, which was first sought in May 2015.
According to sources, the Navy has even junked its plan for IAC-II to have nuclear-propulsion to bring down the overall cost to about Rs 45,000 crore but to not assisted. “It’s time IAC-II, with full-electric propulsion, was approved since it will take over a decade to build it. The projected Rs 45,000 crore expenditure will be spread over 10-14 years, with the bulk of it being ploughed back into the country’s economy,”
The Navy has for long said it requires three carriers to ensure at least two are operationally available at any given time, one each for the eastern and western seaboards, while the third is undergoing its maintenance-and-refit cycle.