SOURCE: Anand SG / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India’s Chinks in Naval Power projection and its poorly constructed Aircraft carrier plans were recently exposed by Chinese military strategist Liu Kui when in his assessment dubbed India’s aircraft carrier strategy a failure recent decommissioning of INS Viraat, left India with one aircraft carrier, which he believes has shown that India’s long-time strategy to dominate the Indian Ocean with three aircraft carriers was “falling flat”.
India’s locally developed first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (IAC-1) might go operational by end of next year in Indian Navy but India is still short of one aircraft carrier and plans to build second aircraft carrier is yet to take off even when INS Vikrant suffered from repeated delays in its construction.
Kui was right to pinpoint that India isn’t still capable of independent advance ship R&D and plans to develop INS Vishal with Nuclear Propulsion has been losing stream due to lack of political commitments to fund and create necessary infrastructure in shipyards and trained manpower which could support mammoth Nuclear powered Aircraft carrier.
A late realisation that R&D and developmental cost of a Nuclear powered Aircraft carrier will be 3 to 4 times more than conventional aircraft carriers already has lost stream at least in the political circle while Navy keeps mum on the whole development.
Nuclear propulsion equipped INS Vishal with next generation, American-supplied Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) aircraft catapult systems single-handedly could have consumed large chunk of Naval Budget and could have taken Research and Development time from 10 to 12 years which could have put additional operational stress on INS Vikramaditya which reportedly has operational service life of only 25 years against 40-50 years of the newly build aircraft carriers .
While large bogey of officials in Navy were supporting and fiddling with the idea of operating a Nuclear powered Aircraft carrier in the future but they existed a small group who had supported the development of a Vikrant class sister ship so that dream of operating 3 Aircraft carrier battle group remained on track but was sidelined by the larger bogey.
If the idea of developing a second ship based on Vikrant class was initiated a few years back at least in next few years, India could have had its third aircraft carrier in time while China is almost completed developmental work on its Second aircraft carrier and is also parallelly working at great speed on its third aircraft carrier .
India to bring back its aircraft carrier program back on tracks should clear development of Second Vikrant-class sister ship with enhanced capabilities and also initiate a new program under PMO in lines of Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project, which helped India to design and build nuclear-powered submarines, so that a Nuclear Powered Aircraft carrier can be a reality in future while India in phases also invests and creates necessary key infrastructure and trained manpower in the country so that new aircraft carrier can be constructed has a replacement to INS Vikramaditya .