The Indian Navy moves closer to a second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier

The construction of a second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier is now the preferred option for the Indian Navy to acquire a third aircraft carrier, according to Admiral R Hari Kumar, its chief of staff. This hypothesis has, in fact, many attractions considering the numerous operational, industrial and political constraints that the program will have to face to see the light of day.

Like several other major world navies, the Indian Navy must face, today, simultaneously the needs of renewing its aging fleet, the development of new capabilities and technologies consistent with the rank that the country now has, and to the competition launched by Beijing which is developing by force the largest world fleet since the US Navy in 1945.

160 ships for the Indian Navy in 2030

At the same time, it must also deal with purely Indian constraints, in particular political hesitations leading to significant delays, and industrial and technological ambitions, also political, framed on a timetable that is probably too ambitious.

It is in this context that the Indian Navy must develop its industrial plan for the years to come, aiming in particular to meet the challenge imposed by the Chinese Navy, and by its support to the Pakistani Navy.

Kalvari class submarine Scorpene india
To support its ambition, the Indian Navy will order 3 additional Kalvari class submarines from Naval Group.

To meet these challenges, it plans to grow its fleet by 30% to reach 160 ships by 2030, but also to provide it with new capabilities with, for example, the construction of a fleet of nuclear attack submarines, with the probable support of France.

What will be the 3rd Indian aircraft carrier?

Although many of the Indian programs have already been announced, arbitration has remained pending for several years, concerning the construction of a possible third aircraft carrier.

To date, the Indian Navy has two aircraft carriers. INS Vikramaditya is a Soviet kyiv-class ship acquired from Russia in 2004, then rebuilt by Indian shipyards to enter service in 2014.

The second ship is the INS Vikrant, the first aircraft carrier of national design and manufacture, although inspired by the Vikramaditya, construction of which began in 2009, and which entered service in 2022.

Initially, the Indian Navy was to acquire a third aircraft carrier, again of local design, and with its 65 tonnes, much more imposing than the 000 tonnes of the Vikramaditya and Vikrant.

Vikrant-class aircraft carrier preferred by Indian Navy

However, this program was far from having the approval of the Indian Navy itself, judging it too expensive, too imposing and unsuitable for the industrial realities of the country. The standoff between the political power attached to the symbol of a heavy aircraft carrier comparable to the new Chinese Fujian, and the Indian Navy favoring a ship of the same class as the Vikrant, seems to have turned in favor of the second.

Indian Navy Vikrant-class aircraft carrier
The aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is the first ship of its type entirely designed and manufactured in India.

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