In 1961, India became the first nation in the world to acquire an aircraft carrier. The country’s first aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, was purchased from the British. It played a role during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. During the conflict, the ship was used to blockade Pakistan’s shipping lanes. The Indian Navy has maintained carrier-based task forces since the country’s independence. These include destroyers, submarines, frigates, and other supporting vessels. However, these forces have always been accompanied by aircraft and foreign carriers.
The construction of the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, marked a significant step in the country’s development. It will join a select group of nations that have built their own carriers. On September 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the ship, which was built at the Cochin Shipyard. It was designed by the Warship Design Bureau of the Indian Navy. The ship, which is expected to be fully operational by around 18 months, will be able to carry 30 aircraft and provide the Indian Navy with a variety of weapons. It will also become the most expensive military hardware in the country. The construction of the ship, which is part of Modi’s campaign to make the country’s defense manufacturing industry self-sufficient, has provided the Navy with an advantage over its neighbor.
Threat from China
For the first time in its history, India now faces a significant threat at sea from China. The country’s new aircraft carrier will have to be protected against various threats, but its advantages outweigh these risks. The construction of the new aircraft carrier has been a significant step in the country’s development. It will allow the Indian Navy to operate at a significant distance from its coastline. And the construction of the new aircraft carrier has been a significant step in the country’s development. It will allow the Navy to protect its maritime domain against China’s growing naval power. The country’s Navy believes that it needs more carriers to maintain its dominance in the Indian Ocean.
The construction of the new ship has been carried out in response to the country’s naval power requirements. However, some of its disadvantages include the technological advancements that have occurred in the field of surveillance and reconnaissance. One of the main disadvantages of the construction of the new ship is that it will not be able to reduce the gap between the Indian Navy and China’s naval capabilities. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has a large fleet that includes over 350 ships and submarines.
China launched its first aircraft carrier in 2012, and it has since significantly improved its capabilities. Its third carrier, which is currently undergoing sea trials, is also expected to be launched in the near future. Its growing number of nuclear and conventional submarines poses a significant threat to the country’s naval forces. Its anti-ship missiles can easily target aircraft carriers. Despite the various disadvantages of the construction of the new ship, the Indian Navy has a compelling reason to deploy it in the Indian Ocean. First, it requires a powerful and mobile carrier to effectively challenge China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean. Having an adequately defended carrier task force could also help interdict Chinese vessels in the region.
In response to China’s growing naval power, the Indian Navy has been emphasizing the importance of preventing the country’s vessels from moving through primary maritime routes. The naval strategy of using sea lines of communication to punish China has been supported by carrier task forces. And the presence of the Indian Navy’s carrier task forces in the Indian Ocean could reset the psychological advantage China has gained by projecting its presence in the region. Although the Chinese navy is expected to establish a fleet in the region in the near future, it will take a long time to establish its presence in the region due to its geographical position.
The Navy has a grace period of time to develop the capabilities to effectively challenge China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean. Since its aircraft carriers can project power deep into the region, India can make the Chinese navy vulnerable by deploying sea denial platforms and deploying standoff weapons in the region. This projection will also strengthen India’s resolve to safeguard its interests in the northern Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy has a long time to develop the capabilities to effectively challenge China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean due to the country’s aircraft carriers’ potential to project power deep into the region.
The increasing number of Indian Navy ships in the Indian Ocean will also strengthen the country’s commitment to the security of the Quad, which includes the United States, China, and Japan. As part of its grand strategy, the United States needs to increase its naval forces in the region. If the Quad eventually becomes a military alliance, New Delhi will most likely play a significant role in the region.
Through this projection, India has a significant leverage over the US, which it can use to seek more assistance in developing its third aircraft carrier. The two countries can also work together on various projects related to their strategic interests. For instance, they can jointly develop nuclear propulsion and fighter jets. The INS Vikrant, which is India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, will have foreign-made components, such as its engines and propellers. The country’s Navy has shown a lot of interest in acquiring fighter jets from the US or France. These two countries have been known to provide the Navy with multiple types of aircraft, such as F-18s and French F-16s. India’s only operational aircraft carrier is currently equipped with outdated MiG-29K jets, which are manufactured by Russia. Despite the country’s growing naval power, its indigenous production capabilities remain a pipedream. Until the country can fill significant manufacturing and supply gaps, its naval capabilities will remain a challenge.
The last time India significantly expanded its naval capabilities was during the 1980s, when it launched two aircraft carriers. Tensions between the country and the Soviet Union and the US’ naval objectives also contributed to the development of a negative mindset among regional players.
While the rising presence of China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean has provided the country with the necessary justification to develop effective deterrence capabilities. Although the United States and its partners in the Indian Ocean should provide the country with more support to develop its indigenous defense capabilities. This will allow it to reduce its dependence on Russian equipment. The US can start by working together with India on its third aircraft carrier.
Vaibhav Tomar is a Research Assistant