AIRCRAFT CARRIER / CHINESE NAVY
News is just out that INS Vikrant at Kochi has successfully completed her Basin Trials and will head out to the sea early next year for sea trials. That would be closely followed with the task of proving her capabilities in launching, recovering, storing and maintaining her aircraft. When she joins the Fleet in 2022, India will once again have a two Carrier Navy, a status it has had twice earlier. But that is not enough, as ships being maintenance heavy, we require three Carriers to be assured of having two operational Carriers available for deployment all the time. This caters for one ship undergoing refit or any type of upgradation that lays off a ship for long.
That we have never reached the force level of three carriers in 70 years, since the Government of India first accepted this bare minimum operational requirement, is not something we can be proud of. The only thing we can take solace from is that for 60 years, we have had some kind of continuity in Carrier operations, which have taught us the difficult art of owning and operating Carrier Battle Groups. It is easy to give this away.
Time is ripe to consolidate the lessons learnt from this project, and embark on the building of the next Carrier, which is expected to be bigger than Vikrant. The costly infrastructure built at CSL, the trained manpower developed in design, construction and project management cannot be allowed to atrophy. The world around us is getting into new conflicts and we are not secure from their fall outs. We ourselves are faced with multiple tangible challenges at sea and on land, that too on two fronts.
This is not lost on the world, and they are racing to develop their skills and material assets. The speed with which the Chinese are building their Carriers is lesson enough. If we need more, we can look at USA and UK. If we don’t act fast, we will condemn ourselves to irrelevance, from where it will be difficult to recover. We need to quickly decide on the making of IAC-2, allocate funds, find methods to overcome the problems of the kind that delayed the Vikrant project, and get on with it. Now!
There is no place for amateurish doubts about the need for a ship like IAC-2. Time, tide and Chinese won’t wait for us. There is no time for prevarication.