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India’s recent announcement to build a third aircraft carrier, with plans for “five or six more,” has reignited debate on the size and composition of its future carrier fleet. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement, while lacking specifics on timelines or design, opens doors for the Indian Navy’s long-term vision.

The Indian Navy currently operates two conventionally powered carriers, the INS Vikramaditya and the newly commissioned INS Vikrant, both displacing around 45,000 tonnes. A third carrier, similar to the Vikrant, is to be approved for construction to replace the Vikramaditya upon its retirement around 2040.

Internal discussions within the Navy reportedly favour a four-carrier fleet as informed to This configuration would enable strategic deployments across key regions: the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean Region (including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and a carrier undergoing maintenance or refit.

Navy officials have hinted to at the possibility of concurrently developing two 65,000-tonne carriers post-2030. This ambitious approach could potentially deliver a four-carrier force by 2038-39, strategically placed before Vikramaditya’s retirement.

The feasibility of constructing two large carriers simultaneously remains a question mark, hinging on budgetary considerations. However, Defence Minister Singh’s remarks might provide the Navy with the leeway to plan its future fleet based on strategic needs.

While the Indian Navy’s vision for a larger carrier fleet is clear, key details like timelines, design specifics (conventional vs. nuclear), and budgetary allocations remain undetermined. The coming years will reveal how India navigates these uncertainties to shape its future aircraft carrier program.

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