Geopolitics - December 2017

(Joyce) #1
December 2017

partners from the US to help it build
what would be largest-ever warship and
technologically challenging one that it
has ever built in its shipyards. The fourth
Indo-US Joint Working Group on Aircraft
Carrier Technology Cooperation com-
prising Indian and US delegates visited
Goa between October 29 and 31 this year
and later met in New Delhi to discuss the
cooperation. Interestingly, during this
visit to Goa, the US team was taken by
the Indian Navy on board its Russian-
origin aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya,
in a move that came as a surprise.
Though this visit by the US team
flies against the narrative, there were
also suggestions that the Indian Defence
Ministry was now actively considering
another proposal to have a convention-
ally-powered aircraft carrier. That could
even mean bringing to new life INS Vi-
raat, which was decommissioned last
year, through a new project.
INS Viraat, the Centaur-class aircraft
carrier that has served both the Royal
Navy and the Indian Navy for 58 years
in all, had for a long time been the lone

aircraft carrier of India, till the 2014 in-
duction of INS Vikramaditya, which was
formerly in the Russian Navy as Admiral
Gorshkov and was refurbished and refit-
ted for the Indian Navy.
The argument against a nuclear-
powered aircraft carrier made by the so-
called experts was that it would cost In-
dia too much, much more than it would
for a conventional aircraft carrier. Simply
because, nuclear propulsion technology
for an aircraft carrier would be a new area
for Indian shipbuilders and they lacked
the expertise to first build the warship
and later to continue to repair and main-
tain it for the next 40 to 50 years.
So, one option before the government
was to go in for another aircraft carrier
as a follow-on to the INS Vikrant-2 that
is currently under construction at the
Cochin Shipyard and to keep the second
platform at the same level of size and
scope. The other option is to build a con-
ventional 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier.
IAC-1 would weigh around 40,
tonnes and is currently at an advanced
stage of construction. The expected time

of commissioning of the IAC-1 is the end
of this decade. This project has cost India
around `20,000 crore.
In July 2015, the Indian Navy issued
Expression of Interest proforma to nine
shipyards for the design and construc-
tion of the IAC-2. The effort was to iden-
tify an Indian shipyard that could be best
suited to build the second aircraft car-
rier that India wants to build within the
country. A study group under a senior
Indian Navy officer of the rank of Rear
Admiral was set up to identify the Indian
shipyard suitable for the IAC-2 project
and to work out a strategy to build it.
In that EOI letter that was sent out,
Indian Navy had listed CATOBAR (Cata-
pult Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) as
the preferred configuration for the flight
deck of the IAC-2, with an air comple-
ment of 55 aircraft – be it for combat,
cargo or surveillance. It is here that the
Indo-American Joint Work Group’s help
would come into play, as General Atom-
ics’ Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch
System (EMALS) is one of the technolo-
gies considered for the flight deck. The


USS Gerald R Ford
(CVN-78) underway on
April 8, 2017
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