Indian Navy's anti-submarine MH-60R helicopter making maiden landing on INS Vikrant

Study continues for its third indigenous carrier, which will be larger and better equipped than the previous IAC-2

NEW DELHI: The Indian Navy’s operational necessity matched with the budgetary planning will soon fructify into approvals for the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2). However, the Navy’s work on the third and larger aircraft carrier will continue.

“The files for another indigenous aircraft carrier are in advanced stages and will get the government approvals soon,” said a source. Besides, the plans towards the third and larger aircraft carrier have been in motion, the source said.

As reported by this newspaper in February, in order to maintain its operational capabilities, the Indian Navy will continue the study for its third indigenous aircraft carrier which will be larger than the IAC-2. The Navy’s confirmations for the IAC-2 on the lines of the IAC-1 commissioned as INS Vikrant were given with the document works being completed in December 2022.

It was on the sidelines of Aero India 2023 that Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar said, “Initially we will go for the repeat order with improved capabilities. And in the meantime, we will go for a study of larger carriers. By the time a third aircraft is commissioned, the life-span of INS Vikramaditya may end.” Some changes were made to the initial plans of IAC 2 which was supposed to be bigger than IAC 1 in size. “The size of INS Vikrant is 44,000 tonnes and we wanted the IAC2 to be around 65,000 tons.”

The move for a repeat order of IAC-1 is based on multiple factors, including construction time, the cost and the trajectory of indigenization of aviation assets. As per the Navy, a new aircraft carrier equipped with newer technologies will have to take into account the fresh versions of landing through catapult system. The ship-building facility will have to be upgraded.

Talking to this newspaper, the officials had said that given the Chinese belligerence in the Indian Ocean, the country will have to extend its air power into far-off areas such as the Malacca Strait on one side, and the Gulf of Aden on the other. “The concentration of force is a principle of war. If you have two operationally ready carriers, you can be active in two areas. If needed, you can move them, bringing a different environment to the battle,” said a source.

An aircraft carrier is a floating airfield and adds to the surge capability as the fighter jets operating from land will always have their limitations. “Operationally, new technologies and drones are coming in which can be launched from the carrier. The Indian Navy requires three carriers because if one of them goes for maintenance, the force still has two carriers for months. An aircraft carrier has lengthy maintenance schedules,” said the source.

This has been the case with the refit of India’s lone aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya which started in the beginning of 2021 and was completed around August this year. With one aircraft carrier still under maintenance and one yet to be inducted, the Indian Navy will be operating a carrier for some more time. The Navy has been maintaining the three carriers-based force structure so that it can operate two of them in maritime zones on each side of the Indian coastline — eastern and western coasts.

INS Vikramaditya was originally a Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov which was commissioned in 2013 after total refurbishing. The 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya has an airfield with an overall length of about 284 meters. As reported by TNIE in December, the Navy completed all the documentation work on the repeat orders and it is expected that the approvals from the government will come soon. The new aircraft carrier is also expected to be of 45,000 displacements with STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery’ or short take-off, barrier-arrested recovery) technology.

Why India Needs 3 Aircraft Carriers

An aircraft carrier is a floating airfield. Fighter jets operating from land have their limitations
By the time 3rd aircraft is commissioned, the life-span of INS Vikramaditya may end, leaving the Navy with 2 carriers
The Indian Navy requires three aircraft carriers because of the maintenance factor
The move for a repeat order of IAC-1 is based on construction time, cost and indigenization of aviation assets