India has just one till now, China has launched its third aircraft carrier
At a time when China has already launched its third aircraft carrier and India is solely dependent on its lone carrier, INS Vikramaditya, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Monday made a strong pitch for a second indigenously built aircraft carrier. The first carrier INS Vikrant is now under construction at Cochin Shipyard and likely to go for seat trials next year.
Against the backdrop of growing maritime prowess of China which is now flexing its muscles in the Indian Ocean region, the Navy Chief said while a second carrier is urgently needed, India needs at least three battle carrier groups for sea control.
The carrier groups include the aircraft carrier playing the pivot while the frigates and destroyers flanking it to cover wide sweeps of the ocean.
Vikramaditya was procured from Russia about six years back and refitted according to Indian requirements. Lanba said with three carriers, India can easily guard its area of interest mainly Indian Ocean as two carriers at all times will be available for operations while the third is undergoing maintenance.
While the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) will take another two years to be operational, Lanba said the Naval headquarters has drawn up plans for the second aircraft carrier. It will weigh about 65,000 tonnes and will be conventionally powered.
Giving the timelines for the second proposed ship, he said if the nod from the Defence Ministry comes through it will take at least another decade before the second ship is ready for operations.
“Case for a second IAC has received necessary impetus though it is still a decade away. Construction would be spread over 7-10 years. We will see the start of construction in three years,” Lanba said addressing the annual Press conference ahead of the Navy Day on December 4.
India’s first indigenous carrier, Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tonnes, is in third and advanced stage of construction in Kochi. It works on a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) mechanism similar to that in the present carrier INS Vikramaditya, with an angular ski-jump.
On the presence of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, strategically important for India, the Navy Chief said six to eight Chinese warships, including submarines, are there in the region from time to time every year.
In fact, one Chinese submarine was in this region for a month in October this year and the Indian Navy detected as soon as it entered the Indan Ocean.
Lanba also said while the balance of power is in favour of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, China has similar advantage in the South China Sea. His observations come against the backdrop of China having dispute with several nations located in the rim of the South China Sea.
On the possibility of a two front war, he said the Navy does not have two fronts and said, “Indian Ocean is the only front.”
He also said China plans to have at least four aircraft carriers in the next five to seven years besides having inked a pact with Pakistan to supply eight submarines to it. Lanba admitted submarines always pose a challenge though adding India has maritime superiority over Pakistan Navy.
Having last month announced induction of women sailors or jawans into the Navy, he stressed that his force is gender neutral. Lanba said all the new warships have facilities for the women unlike the older platforms.
He said the Navy, at present, does not have training ships with these facilities and therefore women officers are not trained for sea going roles.
On the pending issue of appointing a Permanent Chief of Staff Committee (PCoSC) who will act as a single point military adviser to the Government, Lanba said the three services have “finally agreed on a permanent chief of staff committee” and the rules and responsibilities have been sent to the Defence Ministry for approval .