Navy Chief Speaks

India Needs Third Aircraft Carrier, Says Navy Chief

Surya Gangadharan New Delhi 3 December 2018

If the Indian Navy is to operate two carrier battle groups, it must have a third aircraft carrier, said Admiral Sunil Lanba, chief of naval staff. Briefing journalists in New Delhi ahead of Navy Day on Tuesday, he confirmed that work on the navy’s second indigenous aircraft carrier will begin in about three years and could take a decade to complete.

“The carrier would be conventionally powered, displacing about 65,000 tonnes and would have the CATOBAR system for launching aircraft,” he said.

The navy’s only other operational carrier, INS Vikramaditya, has a ski-jump for launching MiG-29K fighters.

The first indigenous carrier, INS Vikrant, is in its third and final phase of construction in Kochi Shipyard that will last until 2022 with sea trials beginning thereafter. The chief confirmed that the navy remains committed to the maritime variant of the Light Combat Aircraft which Hindustan Aeronautics and the Aeronautical Development Agency are working on.

Admiral Lanba said the indigenous ship construction programme was moving forward with 32 ships and submarines being built in Indian yards. The government had also approved the acquisition of 56 more ships of all kinds. This includes the six Project 75I submarines, guidelines for the construction of which are expected to be issued soon.

“I will not comment on the status of the nuclear submarine Arihant and its sister vessels since these are strategic platforms and therefore classified,” he said.

The navy has commissioned a study on augmenting training ships to accommodate women. “All ships currently under construction can accommodate women,” the Admiral said “but the cadet training vessels cannot and this is being looked into.”

The navy will formally commission its first deep submergence rescue vessel (DSRV) in Mumbai later this month followed by a second in Visakhapatnam in March next year. It will fill a longstanding gap in the navy’s underwater capability.

The navy’s helicopter arm is getting a boost with the government clearing the decks for acquisition of 24 multi-role helicopters through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales route. Separately, the government has also approved building indigenously 111 utility helicopters for the navy.

Two major exercises will get under way early next year beginning with Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX) in January and ending in March. All major naval platforms will take part including those from the Coast Guard besides aircraft from the army and the air force. The other drill is Sea Vigil, meant for all stakeholders involved in coastal security. The aim is to test how robust the coastal security apparatus is.

Incidentally, 10 years after the Mumbai attacks, India is only now getting ready to install transponders on all 250,000 registered fishing vessels. The transponder has been developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation and a pilot programme has been successfully carried out in Tamil Nadu to test the system.

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