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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A warship programme that must go full steam ahead


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims:, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), IAC, INS Vikrant, CATOBAR, STOBAR etc
  • Mains GS Paper II and III: Science and technology-Development and their applications and effects in everyday life etc



  • The Indian Navy had put on hold its plans to build a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2) that is larger than IAC-1 (INS Vikrant).
    • Instead it is considering the option of a repeat order of the IAC-1.




INS Vikrant (IAC-1):


  • It is the first aircraft carrier built in India and the first Vikrant-class aircraft carrier built by Cochin Shipyard (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala for the Indian Navy.
  • It has an air component of 30 aircraft, comprising:
    • MiG-29K fighter jets,
    • Kamov-31 airborne early warning helicopters
    • MH-60R multi-role helicopter
    • Indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters.
  • Speed: It is expected to have a top speed of 30 knots (approximately 55 kmph) and is propelled by four gas turbines.
  • Endurance: 7,500 nautical miles at 18 knots (32 kmph) speed.
  • The shipborne weapons include:
    • Barak LR SAM
    • AK-630
  • Sensors: MFSTAR and RAN-40L 3D radars.
  • The vessel has a Shakti EW (Electronic Warfare) Suite.
  • It has a pair of runways and a ‘short take off but arrested recovery’ system to control aircraft operations.


Classification of carriers: 

In terms of weight:

  • Light carriers: can carry up to 25 aircraft
  • Medium-sized: around 30 to 50 aircraft
  • Large/super-carriers: can carry over 90 aircraft.

In terms of role categorized as:

  • fleet
  • escort
  • air defense
  • amphibious assault
  • anti-submarine warfare (helicopter) carriers.

In terms of the methodology used to launch and recover aircraft:

  • Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR)
  • Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR)
  • vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) carriers.


Important Carriers:

  • CATOBAR-type light carrier: designed for fleet air defense.
    • It could carry between 21 to 23 aircraft (including helicopters).
  • INS Viraat (British-built): 28,000 tonnes is a V/STOL-type light fleet air defense carrier, with an air wing of 26 to 30 aircraft and helicopters.
    • Its Sea Harrier aircraft also possessed dedicated land attack capability.
  • INS Vikramaditya (Russian-built): 45,000 tonnes, is a medium-sized STOBAR-type aircraft carrier,
    • It is capable of both fleet air defense and land attack
    • carrying up to 30 aircraft and helicopters.
    • INS Vikrant IAC-1) is almost similar in size, classification, role and capability to INS Vikramaditya.


China’s ambitions:

  • China’s first two aircraft carriers displace over 65,000 tonnes
  • Its third indigenously designed and built carrier, Fujian: displaces 85,000 tonnes, with a possible air wing of 60-odd aircraft.
  • Future plans for a seven-ship carrier force: build nuclear-powered supercarriers of over 1,00,000 tonnes


Way Forward

  • The expertise gained from the design and the construction of IAC-I: It will also enable faster development if a new and larger ship design is approved by the Government.
  • The Indian Navy envisaged a medium-sized CATOBAR aircraft carrier in the region of 50,000 tonnes-65,000 tonnes, as a follow-up to INS Vikrant.
  • Fall-back plan for a repeat order: It would ensure that valuable infrastructure, design capability, ship-building expertise and the indigenous industrial ecosystem, built through extensive investment and effort over two decades, are not lost.
  • Development of aircraft carrier: While aircraft carriers are designed for ‘arrested recovery’ of aircraft, India should not allow the development of its aircraft carrier programme itself to be ‘arrested’.



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