A warship programme that must go full steam ahead

SourceL The post is based on the article A warship programme that must go full steam aheadpublished in The Hindu on 27th December 2022. 

Syllabus: GS3- Security 

Relevance– Defence manufacturing 

News: The article explains the issue of the development of aircraft carriers by the Indian navy. 

How can India classify aircraft carriers? 

In terms of size, aircraft carriers can be classified as light, medium and super-carriers. Light carriers can carry up to 25 aircraft, medium-sized around 30 to 50 aircraft, while the super-carriers can carry over 90 aircraft.  

In terms of role, they can be categorised as fleet, escort, air defence, amphibious assault and anti-submarine warfare carriers 

In terms of the methodology used to launch and recover aircraft, they can be categorised as Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR), Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), and vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) carriers. 

What are some facts about aircraft carriers in India? 

India’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant was a light carrier designed for fleet air defence. It could carry between 21 to 23 aircraft.  

Its replacement, INS Viraat was a light fleet air defence carrier. It has an air wing of 26 to 30 aircraft and helicopters.  

INS Vikramaditya is a 45,000 tonnes medium-sized aircraft carrier. It is capable of both fleet air defence and land attack. It can carry up to 30 aircraft and helicopters.  

IAC-1 is almost similar in size, classification, role and capability to INS Vikramaditya. 

What is the near-term plan of the Indian navy? 

IAC has demonstrated India’s capability to design and build the largest and most complex of warships. Few countries have this capability.  

The planning for IAC-I began in the mid-1980s. The ship was commissioned in September 2022. This time period can be shortened if the next carrier is a repeat order 

The first four carriers had smaller and relatively less capable air wings, as compared to other advanced navies. So, the Indian Navy envisaged a 50,000 tonnes-65,000 tonnes aircraft carrier.  

Due to financial constraints, the Indian navy has decided to shelve this plan. It is considering a repeat order of IAC-1. 

Why repeat order is the optimal strategy for the Indian navy? 

It would ensure that infrastructure, design capability and expertise built through extensive investment and effort are utilised in a proper way. 

It will help in achieving the goal of having three aircraft carriers. First Naval Plan Papers in 1948 stipulated the need for three aircraft carriers for the Indian Navy.  

Similar design and configuration of the two aircraft carriers would also make their operation and maintenance easier. 

What should be the future strategy for the Indian navy? 

In the long term, India should not avoid Chinese capability 

China’s first two aircraft carriers displace over 65,000 tonnes. It’s third indigenously built carrier displaces 85,000 tonnes. It has a possible air wing of 60-odd aircraft.  

China has future plans for a seven-ship carrier force. It includes ambitions to build nuclear-powered supercarriers of over 1,00,000 tonnes of displacement. 

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