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Long wait for Vikrant and new flag but let there be no delay in getting Indian jets onboard | OPINION

Zarvan

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Long wait for Vikrant and new flag but let there be no delay in getting Indian jets onboard | OPINION​


India building its own aircraft carrier is indeed a big deal. But if New Delhi wants to enhance its reach to far-off countries, it's not possible without advanced and modern fighter jets onboard the aircraft carriers.​



Abhishek Bhalla
Abhishek Bhalla New DelhiSeptember 5, 2022UPDATED: September 5, 2022 14:04 IST
Picture of INS Vikrant and the new Indian Navy flag


On September 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned INS Vikrant and also unveiled the new ensign of the Navy.


The new Indian Navy flag shedding the colonial past was unfurled atop INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, at the warship’s grand commissioning in Kochi. There couldn’t have been a more befitting moment to unveil the new navy ensign doing away with the St George’s cross, a symbol that goes back to the Christian crusades. I always wondered how a symbol that had religious connotations could be part of India’s military for so many years.


I am not getting into the debate of whether this was a good idea or another attempt at erasing our past. To put it simply, it was the most appropriate moment to unveil the new ensign on the first Indian-made aircraft carrier.

It was indeed a privilege for me to get onboard Vikrant twice before the commissioning, once last year to report after it completed sea trials and then just a week before the commissioning.

WHY INS VIKRANT IS A BIG DEAL

Yes, India building its own aircraft carrier is indeed a big deal. Before this, the Indian Navy used old carriers used by the United Kingdom and Russia.

As per Naval tradition, ships never die, and in keeping with this tradition, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is back in a new avatar with the same name, Vikrant.


The earlier Vikrant was commissioned in 1961 and later INS Virat was commissioned in 1987, both decommissioned from the British Navy before India bought them. INS Vikramaditya was bought from Russia and commissioned in 2013.

As per Naval tradition, ships never die, and in keeping with this tradition, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is back in a new avatar with the same name, Vikrant.

The new Vikrant takes India into a select band of seven countries — USA, UK, France, Russia, Italy and China that have niche capabilities in the design and building of an aircraft carrier.

NAVY WANTS THIRD AIRCRAFT CARRIER

With this, India has two functional aircraft carriers but the Navy is insisting on a third one but there is a section of the military leadership that believes a third carrier is not feasible considering the high costs. The construction of Vikrant has taken over 15 years at a cost of more than Rs. 20,000 crore.

Even late Gen Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, was not in favour of having a third carrier and suggested the Navy used its island territories as shore-based airfields to carry out air operations as carriers could be vulnerable and become sitting ducks.

Whether the Navy should get a third carrier is still a matter of debate but it must definitely have modern fighter aircraft to cater to the two operational carriers.

NEED MORE FIGHTER JETS FOR THE CARRIERS

Its current fleet of 40 plus MiG 29 K aircraft that will operate from the two carriers will also need replacement at some point in time. With 18-20 aircraft operating from each carrier, if a third one indeed gets a go-ahead, surely more fighters would be needed. In the Indian Navy’s plans is a third carrier, even though it might be a distant dream as of now. If India were to have three carriers, there surely needs to be a supply chain ensuring enough fighter jets to operate from these floating airbases.
The MiG 29 Ks were inducted in 2010 and the first squadron was commissioned in 2013 to operate from INS Vikramaditya. There needs to be a plan to induct new aircraft with timelines to ensure they can be ready before the MiG 29 Ks start ageing.

If India were to have three carriers, there surely needs to be a supply chain ensuring enough fighter jets to operate from these floating airbases.
Now that India has the capabilities of manufacturing its own aircraft carrier, there should be greater thrust on manufacturing the indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter aircraft. The progress on this has been slow. That’s the big lesson to be learnt; it took almost 20 years for Vikrant to be ready since the government clearance in 2003. The plans for having Indian-made twin-engine deck-based fighters should be given top priority without any further delays.


The Light Combat Aircraft programme for the Navy started back in 2003 but faced several hurdles as the Navy also expressed reservations about a single-engine aircraft but in 2020, a plan to build a multi-role carrier-borne fighter got impetus. All eyes are now on having Indian-made modern fighter aircraft for the Navy.

To meet the requirements of modern fighter jets to operate from the two aircraft carriers, the Navy is looking at getting at least 26 aircraft from abroad, the competition being among US firm’s Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the naval version of the French Rafale manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

With the growing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region, enhancing maritime operational capabilities is the need of the hour.

It might take a few more months for Vikrant to be combat-ready with fighter jets carrying out flying sorties and the warship equipped with surface-to-air Barack missiles. The flying trials are likely to start by November and should end by May 2023.

 

DF41

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I think I wait to see if planes can land and take off from Vikrant first.

:D

Without bouncing off her deck and becoming submarines

Or Vikrant must wait until the sea is calm and mirror smooth first

:enjoy:


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