(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta)
Indian Navy is expected to get delivery of 45,000-tonne indigenous INS Vikrant aircraft carrier and 7,500-tonne Visakhapatnam class stealth guided missile destroyer by end-2021 to add to its capability to defend and dominate the Indo-Pacific region.
The indigenous aircraft carrier and INS Visakhapatnam will be formally commissioned into the Navy next year. “Contractual clauses come alive once the warship is handed over to Indian Navy but commissioning takes times as the vessel is to be tested by the Naval personnel for its capability,” said a former Western Navy commander.
While the Chinese Navy has commissioned three main battleships last Saturday at Sanya in Hainan naval facility in disputed South China Sea, the Cochin shipyard will start final trials of INS Vikrant as precursor of handing over the carrier to the Indian Navy. The Mazagon Dockyards will complete trials of INS Visakhapatnam and deliver the stealth destroyer close to the Indian Navy Day.
Powered by General Electric turbines, INS Vikrant will carry two squadrons of MiG-29K fighters and 10 Kamov Ka -31 helicopters. The aircraft carrier strike force will have a range of over 15000 kilometre with Barak surface to air missile to give aerial protection to the vessel. INS Visakhapatnam’s main attack weapon is anti-ship and land attack BrahMos cruise missiles apart from torpedos for anti-submarine warfare.
With the Indian Navy deciding to give preference to nuclear powered conventional submarines in future sea-warfare, the third aircraft carrier also called INS Vishal will now be seen as a replacement for the presently serving INS Vikramaditya.
India’s sole aircraft carrier is currently under maintenance and will be available for operations in the coming months. The decision to project INS Vishal as a replacement for INS Vikramaditya means that the third aircraft carrier plan has not been shelved. Instead, it will go on concurrently so that there is no gap when INS Vikramaditya is decommissioned and mothballed.
In fact, Indian Navy will add more teeth to its capability next year when INS Arighat, India’s second ballistic missile nuclear submarine, will be delivered to the Strategic Forces Command. The vessel is under trials and will be equipped with 3500 km K-4 intermediate range ballistic missiles.