As one of the military leaders of the Asia-Pacific Region, India possesses a
significant military capability, one of the main components of which is the
country’s naval forces. Today, India shows all the signs of being a first-
class naval power with a nuclear submarine fleet and carrier battle groups.
The Indian Navy surely has been strengthened by the commissioning of its new aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya. Coming close on heels of another
significant achievement – commissioning of the nuclear reactor of the
Arihant. India’s first indigenous nuclear powered submarine, going critical
and the Vikramaditya is being seen as a game changer, with the potential to
transform the Indian Navy’s profile in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.
As India’s newest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya entered the Indian
Navy’s area of operation in north western Arabian Sea sometime around new year, accompanied by three other vessels, it was rendezvoused with the
Western Fleet that had gone from Mumbai to receive it.
As per reports, INS Vikramaditya was accompanied by INS Trikand, a Talwar
class frigate, INS Delhi, a Delhi class destroyer and INS Deepak, the fleet
tanker, fired ceremonial guns to salute the flag of the fleet commander Rear
Admiral Anand Chawla, who was leading the flotilla of the Western Fleet,
that also comprised aircraft carrier INS Viraat.
INS Vikramaditya was commissioned into the Indian Navy on November 16 last year at the Russian shipyard of Sevmash at Severodvinsk. it is now headed for its home port at Karwar in Karnataka where it is scheduled to reach in a week. Commanded by Captain Suraj Berry, INS Vikramaditya, which took eight years to refurbish at the Russian yard, would reach Karwar after completing a near 8500 nautical mile journey.
India’s aircraft carrier program is of extreme importance to the country.Along with its nuclear and air force programs. India possesses half a century of uninterrupted experience of carrier operation, and its new carrier program envisions the commissioning over a 15-year period of three aircraft carriers, two of which are to be built in India itself. These three carriers will enable the Indian Navy to maintain two aircraft carrier groups in a permanent state of combat readiness at all times.
In the summer of 2012, India began work on a second aircraft carrier under
its aircraft carrier program. The INS Vishal is due to follow the
Vikramaditya and the under construction Vikrant into service in the early
2020s. It will be much larger than both vessels. The displacement of the
Vishal will exceed 65,000 metric tonnes, against the 40,000 metric tonnes of
its two predecessors. In 2010, Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy Admiral
Nirmal Kumar Verma had announced that the future ship would be a “large
aircraft carrier capable of hosting fighters, AWACS aircraft, tactical
flying tankers, and other hardware.”The technical specification
automatically does away with STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery), adopted for the Vikramaditya and the new Vikrant, since the deployment of flying radars and tankers on board requires a fully operational CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system, functionally similar to the U.S. super carriers.
Such a ship would transform India into an aircraft carrier superpower, even
Britain, for example, cannot afford CATOBAR.India’s already overwhelming naval superiority over Pakistan will turn into absolute supremacy with induction of INS Vishal.India’s aircraft carrier program looks more ambitious than China’s, which (at least for now) relies on refitting the Liaoning aircraft carrier (the former Varyag) with J-15 fighters (pirated from the Su-33). The availability of two 40,000-tonne carriers capable of hosting more than 40 MiG-29K and approximately 20 helicopters gives the Indian Navy a significant advantage over the 60,000- tonne Liaoning with 18-20 J-15s.
In possession of a third aircraft carrier with a displacement of over 60,000
tonnes and with a more numerous air group (up to 40 MiG-29K class Rafale and Tejas aircraft), India will secure at least parity, and possibly superiority, even if the Chinese Navy puts into service three ships armed with J-15s. The balance of power will shift only if China either introduces a more carrier-based (compared to the Su-33/J-15) fighter, which is no trivial matter, or constructs a carrier in the size of the U.S. 100,000- tonners, capable of carrying a large group of heavy fighters.
On reaching Karwar, INS Vikramaditya will get ready for the next phase which will be integration with the air wing, comprising about 30 Mig 29K aircraft and six Kamov Ka-31 “Helix” reconnaissance and anti-submarine helicopters. It will take around four to six months for the full integration of the aircraft carrier with the air wing after which it will become the spearhead of the carrier battle group. Around this time, the aircraft carrier will also be equipped with surface-to-air missile (SAM) and close-in weapon system (CIWS) to safeguard it from aerial attack.
A batch of combat fliers from ‘Black Panther’ squadron has undertaken
simulator training in Moscow. Before the flying operations from the carrier
deck, they are also scheduled to practice take-off and landing on the shore-
based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa. It may be still some time
before Vikramaditya patrols the blue waters of Indian ocean and beyond
projecting India’s might.