India needs more aircraft carriers to balance its forces with China

According to Indian media, in the face of China’s strong naval development, the leader of the Indian Navy said that a third aircraft carrier must be built to be capable of dealing with Beijing.

When India’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier INS Vikrant finishes its first round of trials; there is a question as to whether the Modi government will approve the construction of the second aircraft carrier in the country (and the third for the Indian Navy), named INS Vishal.

Although there is much speculation about General Rawat, Chief of Staff of Indian Army and Admiral Singh, Chief of Naval Staff having disagreements on this matter. So will the Indian government accept the call to continue building the next aircraft carrier?

Indian Navy Chief of Staff Singh said that India should have a third aircraft carrier to deal with China. He reasoned that under normal conditions, India would have to have one aircraft carrier deployed on the east coast and one on the west side for combat duty and deterrence.

The third aircraft carrier will be rested for maintenance or global missions. That is also just enough ships to ensure that the Indian Navy always has two aircraft carriers on duty. But General Rawat disagreed with General Singh.

The two current aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, are both aircraft carriers using a jump-off runway. Therefore, the Indian Navy believes that it is necessary to build a third aircraft carrier named INS Vishal, using a catapult, with a displacement of 65,000 tons.

As early as December 2018, General Sunil Lamba, then Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy announced that preparations for the aircraft carrier INS Vishal had begun and construction is expected to begin in three years. If all goes well, INS Vishal will set sail in the early 2030s.

But the construction of the new aircraft carrier was stopped for a number of reasons; In addition to General Rawat’s strong opposition, India’s severe financial constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic, have made the issue of building a new aircraft carrier even more difficult.

There are three main reasons to oppose the construction of the aircraft carrier INS Vishal. One is the cost factor; during the purchase of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya from Russia, the price increased from the original $974 million to $2.35 billion. When equipped with 45 MiG-29K fighters and additional modifications, the total cost of the aircraft carrier increased to nearly 7 billion USD.

The cost of Vikrant, which includes 36 carrier-based aircraft (expected to be MiG-29K fighters and Ka-31) airborne early warning helicopters, could range from $10 billion to $11 billion.

Analysts say that the total cost of India’s next INS Vishal aircraft carrier, plus 55 F/A-18E/F or Rafale-C, at current prices, will amount to 16-17 billion USD.

Thus, the focus of the debate is that if the Indian Navy spends such huge sums of money building new aircraft carriers, where does the money go to build light frigates, minesweepers, destroyers and frigates? ships, naval helicopters, UAVs and many other weapons. The Indian Navy’s budget for 2021-2022 is also very limited.

Second, critics point out, aircraft carriers are becoming more and more vulnerable to anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles as well as submarines. Today’s submarines can sink an aircraft carrier, without even having to get close.

Like surface ships and aircraft, submarines can also launch increasingly advanced anti-ship missiles from a distance. For example, the range of China’s YJ-12 cruise missile is 400 km, and the range of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile can reach at least 1,500 km.

More and more countries are building cheaper anti-ship cruise missiles that can be launched from multiple vehicles. Anti-ship missiles are increasing in range, accuracy and quantity, leaving large aircraft carriers always in a passive position.

Third, other weapons and equipment can fulfil combat missions more effectively than aircraft carriers, which General Lavat strongly supports. For example, the Su-30MKI fighter is equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which can better control the Indian Ocean region, to prevent enemy warships operating in the area.

Supporters of General Lavat also said that India’s improved Jaguar attack aircraft, equipped with AGM-84L Harpoon missiles and Israeli-made multi-mode active phased array radar, will outperform aircraft carriers in the future attack enemy ships more effectively.

However, the carrier is not as vulnerable as critics have calculated, its fighter jets can protect the ship from enemy air attacks, and the escorts of the carrier formation. flying, can intercept enemy submarines and shoot down incoming missiles.

Besides, there are also many opinions in favor of the Indian Navy continuing to build a third aircraft carrier because aircraft carriers are the basic element of maritime control. At the same time, the carrier formation can perform a variety of tasks, such as deterrence, amphibious combat support, maritime surveillance, flagships, and personnel evacuation.

And if the aircraft carrier is an unsuitable weapon, why do China, the US, the UK, France and other countries continue to develop aircraft carriers now? So for a country that is asserting itself like India, there is no reason to stop developing aircraft carriers.

Considering India’s growing geopolitical interests and its role in the Indo-Pacific, should India give up on developing an aircraft carrier? The Indian Navy will say “no” and they believe PM Modi will support it, as China is speeding up the development of its aircraft carrier.

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