Admiral Karambir Singh, the commander of the Indian Navy, responded to those who opposed the construction of a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) on the grounds that it was too expensive. In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, he said that “the money spent on IAC is not wasted.” IAC Vikrant, which is currently undergoing sea trials, is 76 percent indigenous, made of Indian steel, and has created an ecosystem of 550 Indian companies comprising 100 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, the chief of the Navy noted, “projects such as the domestic aircraft carrier It puts money back into the local economy and creates jobs. This is not money that goes to waste.”
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The Indian Navy currently operates one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which is currently undergoing maintenance. She is 40 years old. The second, the IAC Vikrant, which costs about Rs 23,000 crore, will be operational by mid-2022. The Navy has been seeking a third aircraft carrier (IAC-2) so that it will have at least one for both the east and west coasts even if one is out of service for repairs . When it comes to the estimated cost, the IAC-2, affectionately called Vishal, lives up to its name, priced at roughly Rs 80,000-90,000 crore.
Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, the man with the money leads for the defensive takeover, has taken the wind from the sails of the Navy’s plans for a third aircraft carrier. Throwing in the budget rock, he argued that “unsinkable assets” such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands should be developed instead to enhance India’s naval capabilities.
The chief of the Navy makes a difference.
“Air power is very important at sea. You need air power here and now. We can’t have our navy anchored to the shore waiting for some planes ashore to support us. Aircraft carriers are critical to the naval concept of operations,” said Rear Admiral Karampir Singh.
To illustrate what the Navy chief says, given the vastness of the Indian Ocean (IOR), even if a group of fighters from Port Blair were activated as soon as a threat was detected, it could take at least 90 minutes to reach the “spot”. And a lot can happen in 90 minutes. The aircraft carrier provides speed and flexibility, the Navy says.
A total of 41 aircraft carriers are operated by 13 navies worldwide. The US has 11. China currently has 2 but the expansion plan is ambitious. It aims to have 4 by 2028 and 10 by 2050, adding more air forces to what is already the largest navy in the world.
About 85 percent of China’s energy needs flow through the IOR. The Chinese regularly deploy 3-4 warships and submarines to the area in anti-piracy missions to protect their trade. Maritime security experts say it is only a matter of time before the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) replaces this “task force” with an aircraft carrier group in the IOR.
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When asked if the Indian Navy’s expansion plans were based on the Chinese threat, Admiral Singh said, “In the Navy, you have to think long-term. Our expansion is built entirely around the Naval Capabilities Perspective Plan.” We plan for capabilities to protect our maritime interests. Challenges that It comes with an impact but because you have to think long-term and the challenges are constantly changing, so you have to plan based on ability rather than focusing too much on threats.”