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India joins the carrier elite

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 13, 2013

The INS Vikrant prepared for launch.

India has launched a 37,500t indigenously-built aircraft carrier – the INS Vikrant. The ship, which will have a length of 260m and a width of 60m, will now be fitted out at the Cochin shipyards ahead of planned sea trials in 2016. The Vikrant is expected to be commissioned in 2018.

At the launch of what is the largest naval vessel to be constructed in India, the country’s defense minister said: “The launch marks just the first step in a long journey. We must continue the process of developing indigenous capability to secure our maritime interests.”

The Vikrant, which is said to be capable of delivering speeds in excess of 28kts, will deploy MiG- 29Ks and a range of helicopters.

The Indian Navy is to take delivery of a Russian-built warship, the INS Vikramaditya, later this year as part of a fleet regeneration program.

The Indian Navy boasts a fleet comprising a former British aircraft carrier, 15 frigates, one nuclear and 14 conventional attack submarines, an amphibious transport dock, eight guided missile destroyers, 24 corvettes, 30 patrol vessels and seven mine countermeasure vessels.

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Comments (4)

  • John N


    I have no doubt in the years to come it will be true to say that ‘India joins the carrier elite’, but to suggest that as at today is a massive stretch of the imagination to say the very least.

    The launch yesterday (nearly 4 years behind schedule) of ‘Vikrant’ is basically the launch of a very incomplete and almost empty hull, in fact the most recent reports I’ve read suggest that only 30% of the work required has been completed.

    Still to be installed are miles and miles of pipe work, gear box, hydraulic systems, generator systems, propulsion system and weapons systems.

    The bridge super structure and also most of the deck is still to be installed, if you look closely at the photo, apart of the ‘ski’ jump area at the front of the ship, most of the rear deck is still missing to allow for equipment installation (I’ve seen aerial shots that show what is missing in more detail). The reports that I’ve read have suggested that the ship will not be ready for service till much closer to 2020.

    Apart from the delays, the cost blow out has been massive too, she was originally supposed to cost approx $500m, the cost is now reported as $2.2b, and that does not include the aircraft or weapons systems which will reportedly bring it to a grand total of around $5b!

    And talking of delays and cost blow outs, the Russian built INS Vikramaditya, (former, Admiral Gorshkov, ex Baku) which is scheduled to be delivered later this year is also massively late and over budget too.

    What is to become the Vikramaditya (was originally laid down as the Baku in late 1978, that’s 35 years ago!), was originally to be delivered in August 2008, she is now scheduled to be delivered in November 2013, that’s now 5 years late.

    The original cost (the hull was free) was to be $800m, the cost is now $2.35b, and again does not include the aircraft or weapons systems which will add another Billion or so.

    Forgetting the ‘very much still to be completed’ Vikrant for the moment, until Vikramaditya is delivered later this year, the Indian Navy will have to rely on the Viraat (former HMS Hermes) which was laid down in 1944 and eventually commissioned in 1959 (the year I was born, yes I am an old fart ok!).

    Sorry AA, yes in the years to come it may well be true that India will be part of the ‘carrier elite’, but to suggest it today is inaccurate to say the least.


    John N

  • Darren


    Further to John N I would also add that having planes and ships is one thing, but turning that into an effective unit for offensive power is expensive and time consuming. The USN has been undertaking carrier opperations for decades and has corporate knowledge and systems that are from decades of experience. Sure India comes with some experience. Even taking that into consideration this is a big step. The complexity of deploying a carrier as a fighting unit should not be understated. It is not as simple as it looks. Even some present carrier nations don’t opperate at night. They don’t have the full suite of combat aircraft (AEW, ECM, Tanking,) nor is their a weight of numbers.

    India is in the Carrier Club, but not in the Carrier Elite.


  • Ben


    I have some faith in India. Though laying back on the flight deck of the Might Ark, with the former HMS Hermes also alongside in 1988 (INS Viraat) and wondering what they had. India have had demonstrated carrier capability since 1961, with the former HMS Hercules (INS Viraat), a former RN carrier, entering service with them. Australia on the other hand is still yet to try and enter the game since the carrier HMAS Melbourne was decommissioned. Please don’t try to play up the LHD as a carrier. It is not. The RN carriers still under construction are costing many billions of pounds, and are not likely, although looking like carriers, to enter the service for trials until 2020. So, when you want to rant in some banter about other countries that are attempting to further the carrier game, why not ask why cash rich Australia is not fielding a decent carrier. I tell you why, because the RAAF keep refering to WW2 doctrine about air supremacy. Stick to flying and ask the navy about how ships run with aircraft carriers and our absolute obvious missing strike fleet airm arm and carrier. Yes! ex-RN Fleet Air Arm and proud!

  • John N



    I don’t believe that for one minute Darren or myself were ‘slagging’ the capabilities of the Indian Navy, personally I am very impressed with the ever growing capabilities of the IN, but the point of both our comments was in regard to India being part of the ‘carrier elite’, yes they are certainly part of the carrier club, but elite?, certainly not.

    In fact there is only one navy that the words, ‘carrier elite’, applies to, and that’s the USN, as at ‘today’ it is the only country that is truly capable of ‘continuously’ operating multiple carrier task groups, the only navy that can guarantee to have a carrier task group available 24/7, 365 days a year, year in, year out, no other nation has or currently comes near that capability.

    Having one carrier give you a capability ‘some of the time’, having two gives you the capability ‘most of the time’, having three guarantees at least one available ‘all of the time’, eg, one on station, one on standby and one in refit.

    But having a carrier is only part of what is required, it requires a balanced air group with broad capabilities, other ships for long range air defence of the carrier group, ships for ASW, in depth anti-missile defence, supply and support ships and lets not forget in the USN carrier groups, escorting nuclear submarines too, that’s many many Billions of dollars of hardware and many 1000’s of crew too.

    Does the IN, or any other nation in the carrier club, currently possess that type of capability? No they certainly do not.

    But even with all of that in depth capability, many USN carriers have been ‘sunk’ in exercises over the years by submarines of the RAN and other navies too. Carriers are a great deterrent and great for national pride, etc, but they are also big targets too, especially with the capabilities of modern long range heavyweight torpedoes and long range anti ship missiles too.

    And let’s not forget that during the Falklands War, the Argentine Navy, including its one and only carrier, were kept tied up in port due to presence of RN submarines operating in the South Atlantic too.

    As to the RN’s new QE Class Carriers, yes impressive ships, yes QE should be fully operational by 2020, but there are still questions marks over PoW, the UK Government won’t make a definite decision till the 2015 SDSR, lets hope for the RN’s sake that they do proceed with commissioning PoW, and keeping it in commission too, but even as impressive as both those ships are (or will be), the RN will still be one carrier short of being able to guarantee at least one carrier available at ‘all’ times.

    I agree with you 100% the RAN’s soon to be commissioned LHD’s are not carriers, I’ve said that in many previous posts, no argument from me on that point at all.

    As to the RAN ever operating carriers again, yes I’d like to see that, and yes this nation is wealthy enough to do so, but firstly we need the Government (both sides of politics) to change our defence and foreign policies, to also significantly increase the defence budget to around 2.5% of GDP and, importantly, maintain it at that level.

    And if we were ever going to go down that path again, let’s have a ‘full time’ carrier capability, not a ‘part time’ carrier capability, not just one carrier, but three. I doubt we could afford to operate ships the size of the QE class for example, but probably ships around the 30,000 tonne mark, the Italian Cavour or the newly launched Japanese Carrier (both around the size of the former HMS Hermes) would be a good starting point!


    John N

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