SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat has hit where it could shake Indian Navy the most when he confirmed that clearance for construction of the 65000-tonne aircraft carrier called ” INS Vishal ” might not happen any time soon and some of the points made by him, also backing of many in India who didn’t see why Navy should be allocated big budget for single warship program which might not come in next 10 years.
Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1) has been under construction from 2009 and it will likely be ready for induction only in 2022 which means it took India 13 years to develop and test a 45000-tonne aircraft carrier for India when even 100000-tonne Nuclear super aircraft carrier developed by the United States just takes only 7 years and China has been developing 65000-tonne aircraft carriers even at faster rate in just 4 years.
The pace of Warship construction in India even with the adaption of modern modular construction is pretty slow when compared to the world standards and simply can’t match China or the United States in the economies of scale due to which many Indian warships usually come with lesser weapons and higher cost then the same class of warships with other navies.
Whether it is Anti-Ship missile or air-defense missiles, Indian Navy warships are designed big but carry little weapons which means it requires more warships just to compensate for lower firepower carried out by each warship. Recently the Indian Navy took delivery of INS Kavaratti which is an anti-submarine warfare corvette which took six years to build, a warship which has Displacement of just 3,300 tons but won’t come with 16 Barak Surface to Air missile system initially, literally has not Anti-Ship missiles and No Towed Array sonar nor can operate Heavy Anti-submarine Choppers like MH-60R Seahawk or KA-28/31s.
INS Vishal was supposed to have American Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which costs over a billion in procurement cost and was required active help from the US Navy to certify all the aircraft in which Indian Navy had plans to operate from the aircraft carrier. the second issue was its size since INS Vishal was supposed to be heavier by 20000 tonnes over IAC-1, which meant Indian Navy could deploy more fighter jets and helicopters but it also meant it had to purchase more money to procure this fighter jets and support ships in next 12-13 years which could have derailed many key programs of IAF and Indian Army.
Indian Navy also under the Multi-Role Support Vessel programme plans to acquire four 16000-tonnes Landing Helicopter Docks for amphibious warfare and to enhance its island protection capabilities, which again will cost over $3 Billions. 16000-tonnes armed with Anti-ship Helicopters again doesn’t make sense unless they can be loaded with short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft jets like F-35B like done by Japan.
It could be a lot cheaper to develop a sister class IAC-1 along with fighters loaded on 4 Landing Helicopter Docks, which can act as mini-aircraft carriers than to develop INS Vishal which won’t make sense unless at least two of them are developed to take advantage of economies of scales.
Rawat also stressed that submarines are more important than aircraft carriers which are sound thinking since the Navy will not only require funds to develop Six New Nuclear Attack-class submarines but also for Six New conventional Attack-class submarines along with bigger nuclear powered Ballistic missile submarines which India plans to develop to complete its nuclear triad.
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