DefenceIndian Navy

Top Navy Leaders To Meet Aboard Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant

Story Highlights
  • Vikrant will run an air wing with 30 planes, including the new fighters, MiG-29Ks, Kamov-31 choppers, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, and advanced light helicopters.
  • The navy is also thinking about building a second aircraft carrier that India can use to show its power on the high seas.

On March 6, India’s defence minister, Rajnath Singh, will speak at the first session of a top navy meeting on board India’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. This will bring the country’s steps towards self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector into sharper focus, officials with knowledge of the situation said on Wednesday.

Singh, Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar, Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Dinesh Tripathi, and other top officials will board the aircraft carrier at Goa to go to the biannual naval commanders’ conference, said one of the officials who asked not to be named. He said that only the first day of the five-day meeting will take place at sea.

A second official who also asked not to be named said that the topics of discussion at the conference will include operations, combat readiness, logistics, training, human resource development, jointness, and indigenization. The officials said that they expect to talk about what’s going on in the Indian Ocean region, where China wants to be more present.

Rarely do such high-level meetings happen on warships. In December 2015, the combined commanders’ conference was held on India’s other aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, just off the coast of Kochi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in charge of the meeting. That was the first time the top leaders of the three services met on an aircraft carrier for a combined commanders’ conference. Modi has been in favour of holding big events outside of the country’s capital.

Six months after the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant joined the navy, the naval commanders are meeting on board the ship.

“The INS Vikrant, which was designed and built in India, is a good example of how the navy’s long-term maritime strategy is playing out,” said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd).

The INS Vikrant is currently going through flight tests. In February, the aircraft carrier was used for the first time by a prototype of the naval version of the locally made light combat aircraft (LCA) and the Russian-made MiG-29K.

As HT reported in December, the French Rafale M fighter beat the American F/A-18 Super Hornet in a direct competition to supply the navy with 26 new deck-based fighters for the INS Vikrant. The Super Hornet is made by Boeing, while the Rafale is made by Dassault Aviation.

The 26 fighters that the navy plans to buy are just a stopgap until the country makes its own twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF). Officials say that the first TEDBF prototype could take its first flight in 2026 and be ready for mass production by 2031.

Vikrant will run an air wing with 30 planes, including the new fighters, MiG-29Ks, Kamov-31 choppers, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, and advanced light helicopters. 76% of Vikrant is made in India. MiG-29K fighters are used by the INS Vikramaditya.

Cochin Shipyard spent 20,000 crore to build the 45,000-ton Vikrant. This size of aircraft carrier can only be made in the US, UK, Russia, France, and China. It is called INS Vikrant after the aircraft carrier that the navy ran from 1961 to 1997.

The navy is also thinking about building a second aircraft carrier that India can use to show its power on the high seas.

The INS Vikramaditya was bought from Russia for $2.33 billion because it was used. The navy has been saying that its large area of interest means it needs three of these floating airfields.

Vikrant is the fourth aircraft carrier that the Indian Navy has used. The first Vikrant, which was British, was used from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat was used from 1987 to 2016, and INS Vikramaditya has been used since 2013.

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