Notwithstanding the uncertain security scenario on the borders, the Indian Navy is not likely to expand its existing fleet of one aircraft carrier over the next 15 years.
This is because the Defence Procurement Board has reportedly decided to put India’s indigenous aircraft carrier 2 (IAC) plan on the back burner, according to sources.
The IAC-2 is not part of the 2017-19 annual acquisition plans of the Indian Navy.
“A three-member committee that was formed by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar for formulating specifications, costing and aircraft for the carrier has now been disbanded,” a highly placed source told FE.
While IAC-2 has been put on hold as of now, IAC-1 is expected to be rolled out only by 2023. “The Indian Navy’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is scheduled to roll out from the Cochin Shipyard by 2021-23, almost eight years late. This leaves the Navy with one operational aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-tonne carrier bought from Russia, which is due for repairs soon,” the source said.
Earlier this year, Indian Navy’s Vice-Admiral D M Deshpande, controller of Warship Production and Acquisition, talking at Ficci’s international seminar on ‘Building India’s Future Navy: Technology Imperatives’, had indicated that the defence ministry remains uncertain about spending billions of dollars on a carrier. According to him, “an aircraft carrier is a huge ticket item and, before some commitments are made on allocation of these funds everybody wants to be very clear on the requirement, whether we actually need that. So these are being addressed before we actually take it up to the government for final clearances.”
According to reports, navies like the US Navy, the Royal Navy, the French, Russian and now even the Chinese PLA-N have all built their fleets around aircraft carriers, which enables them to project their power over long-distance from their home bases.
The PLA-N operates only its first-ever carrier, the 65,000-tonne Liaoning, which Beijing bought from Russia, refurbished, and commissioned in 2012. India has operated at least one aircraft carrier ever since INS Vikrant joined the fleet in 1961. The PLA-N, however, now plans to commission and operate at least 5-6 carriers.