Indian Navy set to order sister ship to aircraft carrier INS Vikrant

Since the entry into service of the new aircraft carrier with springboard and arresting lines INS Vikrant in September 2022, the question around the construction of a new ship, heavier and equipped with catapults, is the subject of many debates. in India. Paradoxically, the Indian Navy is clearly, and for several years, very reserved on the relevance of building a ship which wants to be the Indian response to the new Chinese Type 003, with a displacement of more than 65.000 tons and catapults to implement the new TEDBF on-board fighter for Twin Engined Deck Based Fighter, being designed by the national aircraft manufacturer HAL and the Indian arms agency DRDO. According to the Indian admirals, the costs related to the development of such a ship to complete the fleet made up of the two aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya (ex Baku then Admiral Gorshkov acquired from Russia in 2004, and the INS Vikrant, the first ship of local bill, a 44.000 ton aircraft carrier equipped with a Ski-jump and stops such as the Vikramaditya, which must reach initial operational capacity by the end of 2023, would deprive it of the necessary funds to expand its fleet of 6 nationally-designed nuclear attack submarines.

It seems that the Indian Admiralty and the government of Narendra Modi, attached to the symbols of power, have found a compromise. Rather than engaging in the costly development of a new heavy aircraft carrier, it would prepare, according to the Indian press, to order a sister-ship to INS Vikrant, so as to bring the fleet of Indian aircraft carriers to 3 ships and thus have a permanent naval air capability. As a reminder, a fleet of 4 ships is necessary to permanently keep a ship at sea, as is the case with the nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleets forming the French and British deterrents, 3 ships to guarantee permanent availability of at least one vessel 100% of the time. A fleet of 2 ships ensures an availability of around 80%, while a fleet of one ship peaks, depending on the mode of use, between 40 and 50% of the time in the best case.

Acquired in 2004 from Russia, the INS Vikramaditya entered service in 2014 in the Indian Navy after a long process of modernization to equip the ship with a Ski-Jump and stop ropes.

According to Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy, the construction of a new aircraft carrier of the same type as INS Vikrant with minor modifications could be completed in 8 years, allowing to then switch to a format with 3 aircraft carriers. At the same time, the development of the replacement for INS Vikramaditya, which will leave the service by 2040, will be launched, and will probably relate to a new model of aircraft carrier this time equipped with catapults and electromagnetic arresting strands , so as to spread the development costs but also the technological risks, while maintaining the format targeted by the Indian naval aviation. New Delhi having, in any case until today, not declared significant ambitions to acquire a powerful naval power projection capability, its aircraft carriers will mainly have the mission of responding to the threat represented by other naval air capabilities, such as those currently being deployed in China, so as to deter the adversary from any excessive ambition. In this area, STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) aircraft carriers like the Vikrant and her sister-ship will provide very appreciable and well-dimensioned capabilities with regard to the foreseeable threat in the 30 to 40 years to come.

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