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The Indian Navy’s vision for a three-carrier fleet might be undergoing a revision. Recent statements by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh suggest a more expansive plan: “We will not stop at that (three carriers). We will make five, six more,” he declared.

The initial goal of acquiring three aircraft carriers appears to be a stepping stone. The third carrier, modelled after the indigenously built INS Vikrant, is nearing Project sanction for development with potential technological advancements. However, the Navy’s aspirations extend beyond this.

The Navy desires a bigger carrier, potentially displacing 65,000 tons. This larger platform could accommodate Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and carry a greater number of fighter jets, enhancing its capabilities.

India’s growing carrier ambitions seem to be influenced by China’s naval expansion. China’s plans to operate a fleet of 5-6 aircraft carriers, with a potential battle group deployed in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), have likely spurred India’s strategic response.

China’s recent launch of the Fujian, an 80,000-ton behemoth, coupled with plans for sister ships, has factored into India’s naval calculations. 

India’s evolving carrier program reflects its growing naval ambitions and its strategic response to China’s assertive maritime posture. Whether India prioritizes a larger carrier force or a larger number of smaller carriers will depend on careful analysis of its strategic needs, technological advancements, and budgetary constraints. The coming years will be crucial in determining the ultimate shape and size of India’s future carrier fleet.

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