At his annual press conference, Navy chief Admiral Hari Kumar also said they'll soon take a call on whether they'll go in for marine version of Rafale fighters or F/A-18 Super Hornets

New Delhi: The Indian Navy has put on hold its plans to design and build a larger indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC), known as IAC-2, and is looking at the possibility of a repeat order of the recently commissioned INS Vikrant.

This means that while the Navy wants a third aircraft carrier, it is now looking at ordering another 42,800-ton displacement Vikrant-class ship unlike the earlier plans to build a larger carrier.

Addressing the annual press conference on the eve of Navy Day, Navy Chief Admiral Hari Kumar said that the Navy is still working on what kind of size the IAC-2 should have and its capabilities. “Right now, the plans have been put on hold because we just commissioned Vikrant,” he said.

Admiral Kumar said given that the Vikrant’s construction process has led to a lot of expertise and creation of a large number of medium enterprises in the ship building process, “we are contemplating whether we should look at a repeat order of IAC-1”.

He said that this was still in discussion stage and the Navy has not made up its mind yet and has also not approached the government for the same.

The government is of the opinion that the Navy should focus on building more submarines, rather than go in for a third aircraft carrier.

Former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) late Gen Bipin Rawat had openly said that an aircraft carrier was a costly liability and a sitting duck for modern long range anti-ship missiles.

On the other hand, the Indian Navy believes that carriers are important and points out that the Chinese are also investing in carriers. However, other sources said that China first focussed on submarines and was now focusing on carriers as part of its global ambitions to project power overseas and challenge the US.

‘Preparing A Draft Cabinet Note For Indigenous Naval Fighters’

Talking about the ongoing fighter acquisition programme, the Navy said that the force was analysing the report submitted following the “trials” of the Rafale-M and the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

He said that the future of Indian naval aviation was the indigenous Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), whose prototype is expected by 2026-27 and production to start somewhere around 2032.

“We are preparing a draft Cabinet note for the TEDBF,” he said, adding that the existing naval fighter MiG-29K was in limited numbers and Russian spare supplies were “also not very forthcoming”.

Predator Drones On Track, Number Being Relooked

On the long-pending issue of acquisition of 30 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones from the US, Admiral Kumar said it was on track. A call was being taken whether to stick to the number 30 or go in for rationalisation, he added.

He also said that the two leased Sea Guardian drones have performed extremely well and the Navy has benefitted.

The navy chief said he was confident that when India will induct these HALE drones, all the three Services will greatly benefit.

The Naval force, which currently did not have any single minesweepers, was having a rethink on the whole process, said Admiral Kumar, adding that rather than building new minesweepers, the Navy was looking at the possibility of having a mothership that can carry out missions using autonomous technology. The Navy would become self-dependent by 2047, he added.