India will begin testing the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier in August. The accelerated completion of the aircraft carrier comes as New Delhi seeks to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that after sea trials in August, the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022.
Before that, the Chinese media had repeatedly despised the Indian domestic aircraft carrier, they also listed many records of the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier as having the longest construction time, using mixed technology from many countries. difficult to synchronize. The testing and completion of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is good news for the Indian Navy.
Experts say the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will help India project power in the Indian Ocean region, in the context of China’s growing influence.
China is currently preparing to launch its third and second homemade aircraft carrier. Therefore, increasing naval power by adding more aircraft carriers will help India be confident in the strength of neighboring rivals.
The Indian government describes the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant as “the most powerful asset at sea, incomparable military weaponry”.
The new aircraft carrier will operate MiG-29K ship-based fighters, Ka-31 helicopters imported from Russia, multi-purpose helicopters MH-60R from the US and domestically produced advanced light helicopters.
Ben Ho, a naval analyst at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the new aircraft carrier would provide New Delhi with more options, including a potential crisis with Beijing. “Having a larger aircraft carrier fleet creates a stronger and more confident maritime strategy. This helps counter China’s encroachment into the Indian Ocean, which is India’s backyard,” Ho said.
Yogesh Joshi, a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, said that the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant would enhance India’s naval presence and strike capabilities.
The aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has a length of 262 m, a maximum width of 62 m, a draft of 8.4 m, a full load displacement of 45,000 tons. The ship uses many technologies from countries including Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, and Israel. The ship can carry up to 40 aircraft of all kinds, including 26 MiG-29 fighters and 10 helicopters.
The completion of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is a proof of India’s technological prowess. The government says 75% of the ship is of domestic origin, from the design, to the steel, weapons and key sensors.
Many in the Indian Defense Ministry believe that the country is too dependent on a single aircraft carrier, especially as it expands its cooperation with navies around the world. Recently, India has expanded naval exercises with the Quad countries, including the US, Japan, Australia and India.
On June 27, the Indian Navy held a joint exercise with the South Korean Navy in the East China Sea. Before that, they had a two-day exercise with the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Going forward, the Indian Navy will hold annual exercises with the British Royal Navy, as well as several other exercises along the coasts of Africa and Europe.
RS Vasan, director of the Chennai Center for China Studies, said that the expansion of the multilateral exercises has reinforced the Indian demand for a second aircraft carrier. “The best solution would be to have two aircraft carriers on each of the two coasts, which is especially relevant when India has two main rivals, China to the east and Pakistan to the west,” Vasan said.
“What many people don’t realize is that an aircraft carrier allows pilots to fly further in surveillance missions. Navy pilots can navigate enemy warships better than air force pilots,” Vasan said.
The expansion of India’s surveillance capabilities has become particularly important, as China strengthens its presence in the Indian Ocean. In December 2019, a Chinese oceanographic research vessel was expelled from Indian waters.
The relationship between India and China still has many potential risks of conflict, so the increase of extremely powerful assets including aircraft carriers will help New Delhi confidently face potential rival Beijing.