In recent times, there has not been a naval exercise of this size and extent. But the real message lay in the implication that India now has the capability to dominate its surrounding seas by flying fighter aircraft that take off from one carrier and land on the other.
The exercise—Twin-carrier CBG Operations—took place last week in the Arabian Sea and demonstrated the capacity for seamless operational integration between the Indian Navy’s two aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.
As the aircraft carriers sailed side by side, they were accompanied by 15-20 auxiliary support ships, destroyers and submarines, more than 35 aircraft including the MiG-29K fighter jets, MH60R, Kamov, Sea King, Chetak and ALH helicopters—projecting unprecedented Indian naval power all the way.
Just for perspective, the MiG-29K—which is deployed on both the INS Vikramaditya and the home-made INS Vikrant—has an operative range of 2,000 km and flies at a top speed of 2,200 kmph.
The area covered by the exercise ranged between 25-30 nautical miles.
Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said: “The twin-carrier CBG (Carrier Battle Group) operations undertaken by the Indian Navy, with more than 35 aircraft, in Arabian Sea, demonstrate our formidable capability in ensuring sustained air operations across the vast maritime expanse and underscoring our commitment to safeguarding India’s national interests.”
“The seamless operational integration of the two aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya and the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant as well as fleet ships and submarines is a powerful testament to the pivotal role of sea based air power and India’s role as the preferred security partner in the Indian Ocean and beyond.”
A senior Navy source familiar with the exercise explained to THE WEEK: “In a real-life situation, both the aircraft carriers will not operate so close by. If one is deployed in the Arabian Sea and another in the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean, the exercise has shown that fighters can take off from one and land on the other and vice versa. After all, aircraft carriers are ‘floating sovereign airfields’ that can be positioned anywhere.”
The exercise is indicative of “increased mission flexibility, timely response to emerging threats and sustained air operations to safeguard national interests across the globe” besides demonstrating capability for total sea control for a prolonged period of time.