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Third aircraft carrier absolutely necessary, says Navy Chief

"We are very clear that air power at sea is required"

156-Admiral-Karambir-Singh Admiral Karambir Singh | Sanjay Ahlawat

Amid debates about the Indian Navy's requirement of an another aircraft carrier, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said that the Navy is absolutely clear of the utility of the third aircraft carrier.

Speaking to media ahead of Navy Day (December 4), Admiral Karambir maintained that they will move a formal case to the government for a third aircraft carrier after collecting technical information. "We have sent out certain RFIs (Request for Information) to gather information. Once we have collated them we will go in for the AON (Acceptance of Necessity). We all know that air operations are integral to naval operations and air power at sea is required here and now," Admiral Karabir said in response to a question by THE WEEK.

Known as floating air bases, these giant aircraft carriers are equipped with a full-length flight deck capable of carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft.

Barely a month after taking over as the country's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat torpedoed the Indian Navy's future plan to have its third aircraft carrier (the second indigenous aircraft carrier IAC-2). Citing its high cost, General Rawat argued for submarines and developing shore based capabilities over aircraft carrier.

India currently has only one aircraft carrier—the 45,000-ton INS Vikramaditya, acquired from Russia in 2013. This is the third carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy since independence. And country's first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1) is being built in Cochin Shipyard and is expected to be join the Indian navy by next year. Indian Navy argues that, at present, most of the world powers are operating or building technologically advanced aircraft carriers to safeguard their maritime rights and interests. There are a total of 41 active aircraft carriers in operation by 13 navies across the world.

"We are very clear that air power at sea is required. If you are a nation that has aspirations and wants to be a $5 trillion economy and do not want to be tethered to the shores...aircraft carriers are absolutely essential," Admiral Karambir said.

He added that the navy's fleet capability is aiming to achieve 175 warships goal, as he claimed that "the navy has inducted 24 Indian-built submarines and ships in last six years and 41 other ships are under-construction in India only."

While talking about the Navy's role in the ongoing military standoff with China on eastern Ladakh, navy chief said on several occasions, Indian navy's surveillance assets like P8I long range reconnaissance aircraft and drones were deployed to LAC for help Indian army's operations. He also said that the navy’s activities are in close coordination and synergy with the Army and Indian Air Force during the eight-month-long military face off with China.

"We have deployed the P-8I aircraft and Heron drones at various locations on the requirement of Army and Indian Air Force. P8I is a potent platform with certain equipment to be used on the border areas," navy chief said, while adding that attempts to change status quo on the northern border has increased the complexities in our security situation.

Recently, the Navy has acquired two MQ9B Predator drones on lease from General Atomics of the United States, as MQ 9 has an surveillance endurance of over 33 hours .

And to strengthen India's anti-drone capabilities, Admiral Karambir disclosed that the Indian Navy is procuring Smash-2000 rifles as anti-drone equipment to protect against attacking drones.


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