Indian Navy Sets To Launch N-Powered Aircraft Carriers

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NEW DELHI: The Indian Navy’s design bureau is favourably considering nuclear propulsion for the second, and possibly a third indigenous aircraft carrier.

Although the final decision is yet to be taken, reliable sources told India Strategic that the navy and the country’s nuclear scientists have drawn sufficient experience from their success in installing nuclear propulsion in Arihant, the country’s first SSBN (ship submersible ballistic nuclear) submarine (or nuclear-propelled, nuclear-armed submarine), which is currently undergoing sea trials, and that is encouraging them to replicate the technology for indigenous aircraft carriers.

Right now, according to the navy chief, Admiral Robin Dhowan, the Naval Design Bureau (NDB) is working towards designing a 60,000 -65,000 tonne aircraft carrier – which will be the biggest vessel to be constructed in the country – and that two major systems under consideration are nuclear propulsion and the new generation aircraft launch system, EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch and Recovery System), from the US General Atomics. But there is no final decision yet on either.

India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, IAC-I or Vikrant, is under construction at the Kochi Shipyard for delivery by end-2018 and it is to be propelled by four LM2500 gas turbine engines from the US GE. Nuclear power is being considered for the second, called IAC-II and likely to be named Vishal. It is planned for induction in 2029.

There is also the strong possibility of another indigenous carrier, IAC-III.

While the IAC-I has a ski-jump to launch aircraft, IAC-II and IAC-III will likely use the EMALS to catapult aircraft from short distances of the carrier decks.

The Indian Navy is looking at three aircraft carriers to ensure 24×7 operations with two Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs). Three carriers are required as one of them will be under periodic maintenance and refits, and accordingly, unavailable.

The Indian Navy is looking at three aircraft carriers to ensure 24×7 operations with two Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs). Three carriers are required as one of them will be under periodic maintenance and refits, and accordingly, unavailable.

At present, the Indian Navy has Russia-supplied INS Vikramaditya since 2013, and it should be in service for about 30 to 35 years. India will need its third indigenous carrier by then, and it takes some 10 years to build one, even with new modular construction practices.

Both INS Vikramaditya and IAC-I share the ski-jump system to launch Russian-made MiG 29K aircraft. The EMALS will be much more efficient and powerful to launch different aircraft in moments with the flick of a switch. The US Navy is using the system for its new generation carriers, the Gerald R. Ford (under construction) and John F Kennedy.

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