Indian Navy’s First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier to be inducted in 2020

The first of what will be two indigenous aircraft carriers for the Indian Navy is planned for induction in 2020 according to statements on December 3 by the commander of the Navy’s Eastern Naval Command.

The 40,000-ton INS Vikrant (Courageous), or Indigenous Aircraft Carrier one (IAC-1), will be based with the Eastern Naval Command and is currently being built at state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited’s facility in Kochi in southern India. The ship was launched on August 12, 2013. It will form part of a three-carrier plan foreseen by the Navy under its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan which calls for a force level of three carriers to ensure availability of at least two Carrier Battle Groups at any given time.

The Vikrant class’s air wing will comprise MiG-29Ks and possibly another foreign-sourced fighter type.

The Indian Navy is looking to fast-track a project to construct a second indigenous aircraft carrier. The ship will likely be named INS Vishal, but currently is designated IAC-II.  It is expected to take 10 years to build the planned 65,000-ton ship, which will have an additional component of 57 jet fighters.

The Indian Navy issued Request for Information (RFIs) to four major global shipbuilders for the IAC-II Project in July 2015: the U.K.’s BAE Systems, France’s DCNS, Russia’s Rosoboronexport, and U.S. firm Lockheed Martin.  The RFIs mandated that the new carrier include a catapult to launch fixed-wing aircraft – in short, it seeks a CATOBAR (catapult-launched, arrested landing) vessel.

But the Indian Navy has yet to receive clearance from the Defense Ministry for issuing a formal tender for the project due to the cost burden it would impose on the defense budget. The ship had been targeted for delivery between 2030 and 2032, but that timeline will likely be revised. At the same press conference on December 3 where induction of IAC-1 was announced, Admiral Sunil Lanba made the case for the second indigenous carrier and stated construction could start in three years. Judging by past and present Indian defense projects, this might prove to be an overly optimistic estimate.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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