India launches new aircraft carrier as concerns over China grow | Weapons News
India has commissioned its first home-made aircraft carrier as it seeks to counter China’s growing fleet of warships, while also expanding India’s indigenous shipbuilding capabilities.
INS Vikrant, whose name is from the Sanskrit word for “strong” or “courageous”, is India’s second largest operational aircraft carrier and joined the Soviet-era INS Vikramaditya which was purchased from Russia in 2004. to protect the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
Designed by the Indian navy and built at Cochin Shipyard in southern India, the new 262-meter (860-foot) INS Vikrant was launched Friday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of a celebration. 75 years of independence from British rule. .
Not only strengthening the country’s naval capabilities, Modi stressed the importance of India being only one of the few countries with a native aircraft carrier program.
“It is a historic day and a landmark achievement,” Modi said. “It’s an example of the government’s push to make India’s defense sector autonomous.”
The aircraft carrier is the largest warship built in India, can carry a crew of about 1,600 and operates a fleet of 30 aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters, the Navy says. military said.
The Vikrant will initially be based on the Russian-designed MIG-29K fighter aircraft already operating from the INS Vikramaditya.
The 47,400-ton warship will be fully operational by the end of 2023 after first undergoing landing tests with the MiG-29K aircraft. India also plans to equip the carrier with more than two dozen new fighters, with the Rafale-M by French firm Dassault and the Boeing-built F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet currently under consideration.
More than 75% of the components of India’s new aircraft carrier are procured domestically, with half a dozen large industrial companies and more than 100 smaller businesses supplying equipment and machinery, according to the Ministry of Defense.
The six-year delay in construction has made the ship’s price six times higher, to the current 200 billion Indian rupees ($2.5 billion), according to defense experts.
India employs 1.38 million people in its armed forces, with large numbers deployed on its border with nuclear-armed rivals China and Pakistan.
In recent years, China has expanded its presence into the Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific and beyond.
In August, Beijing sent a navy ship to a Port built by China in Sri Lanka despite security concerns from New Delhi about such a harbor just off the coast of India.
Beijing calls the ship a research vessel, but many see it as a dual-purpose spy ship that India fears could be used to monitor the region.
In the face of concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the region, last year, the Indian navy sent four warships to Southeast Asia, the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific to exercise with other countries. member of the other “Quad” – the United States. , Japan and Australia, according to the Indian Ministry of Defense.
On Friday, Mr. Modi said security concerns in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions had been ignored for too long.
“Today, this region is a major national defense priority for us. So we are working in every direction, from increasing the budget for the navy to increasing its capacity,” he said.
Force ‘blue water’
The vast maritime region of the Indo-Pacific has been tense because of China’s territorial disputes with neighboring countries, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea. There are competing claims to all or part of a strategically important waterway containing significant undersea oil and gas deposits.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, has been modernizing for more than 10 years to become a “blue water” force – one capable of operating globally rather than being confined to near mainland China. The carrier is crucial for such a mission.
The US Department of Defense estimates this force will grow to 420 ships by 2025 and 460 ships by 2030.
Two Chinese aircraft carriers were joined with a third in June. The new aircraft carrier is expected to be equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system similar to that used by the United States on its new aircraft carriers. The Indian aircraft carrier uses a traditional “ski jump” system to launch its aircraft.
India’s naval fleet currently includes two aircraft carriers, 10 destroyers, 12 frigates and 20 corvettes.
India’s older aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was built in the Soviet Union in 1987. She served with the Soviet navy as Admiral Gorshkov, and later with the Russian navy before she was decommissioned in 1996.
India bought it in 2004 for $2.35 billion.