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India's Growing Maritime Power Requires a Third Aircraft Carrier

© AP Photo / Saurabh Dasndian aircraft carrier Vikramaditya is photographed in the foreground during the final rehearsal of International Fleet review in Vishakapatnam, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.
ndian aircraft carrier Vikramaditya is photographed in the foreground during the final rehearsal of International Fleet review in Vishakapatnam, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 15.03.2024
To become the dominant power in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is constructing its next generation of naval vessels, and topping that list is building a second indigenous aircraft carrier, Indian pundits suggest.
The Indian Navy reportedly made a formal proposal to the government for the construction of a third aircraft carrier on Wednesday, which would be the second such ship to be built indigenously.
At present, India has two operational aircraft carriers - the Russian-built INS Vikramaditya and the domestically manufactured INS Vikrant which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2022.

Current State of India's Aircraft Carriers

However, most often, only one is available for deployment as the other is undergoing repairs or being serviced at a dockyard.
For instance, INS Vikramaditya underwent a lengthy process of refit from December 2020 to January 2023 before returning to an operational role last month.
Additionally, the volatile environment in its backyard in the Arabian Sea, where cargo ships have been attacked by pirates and Yemen's Houthis following the advent of the Israel-Hamas war, the Indian Navy has been hard-pressing the government for a third aircraft carrier.
In this light, Navy veteran Sarabjeet Parmar stressed that for a balanced blue water force, one needs all components and that's why India has warships that are under construction. Besides, it is looking at submarine deals and also requires an aircraft carrier.

India's Growing Role as a Maritime Power in the Indo-Pacific

He explained that with the growing responsibility of the Indian Navy and the stance being preferred by the country's top brass, which is of being the first responder, it needs to navigate the whole Indo-Pacific as it is now engaging in the entire region. And one can only do that if you have all components in your arsenal of which an aircraft carrier is an integral part.

"That's the reason why if you need to spread your wings as a blue water force and a maritime nation, you will need more assets. Therefore, at the present rate, two aircraft carriers are considered a little too less because the Indian Navy's responsibilities are spreading wide, and a third and perhaps even more aircraft carriers are needed because what a carrier can provide no other modern ship can offer," Parmar told Sputnik India.

Advantages of Having a Third Aircraft Carrier

According to him, the first thing an aircraft carrier provides is a huge maritime surveillance bubble with its aircraft which are available at that given point in time. The further one is away from land, the more time a country's land-based combat jets will take to come to the region and the amount of time the warplanes would spend in the area would be limited because there's a certain flying time based on the fuel they carry which is not the case with an aircraft carrier.

"So as the responsibility increases, as India grows as a maritime power, and as it keeps on fulfilling its role of the first responder, it needs to have a balanced force encompassing all this. Hence, the third aircraft carrier is a necessity at present for India and it may require four or five aircraft carriers, subsequently as and when the need arises," the retired Captain of the Indian Navy reckoned.

India Could Lose the Shipbuilding Expertise Without an Aircraft Carrier Order

Moreover, India has already established an elaborate system for building aircraft carriers - it is not only shipyards but there also are ancillary industries that come up alongside the shipyard in putting up an aircraft carrier and if those industries have to survive, it needs to keep on placing orders. Otherwise, it will lose that industry and it will lose the expertise that would set it back for years, Parmar suggested.
"It's like a feeder chain, you want to keep that line moving, you want to keep that line alive. Because if you lose that expertise, it is a costly affair to get that expertise back and an even more costly affair to develop that industry again. Plus, you will be putting a lot of people out of jobs if you don't continue to keep that line active. It also goes for other shipyards that are building ships, or other vessels for the Navy," he concluded.
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