Source – Hindustan Times
With Indo-Pacific getting heated with China threatening the US over Taiwan, India’s two aircraft carriers will be battle-ready post-monsoon and will project dominance in the Indian Ocean region and synergize with QUAD navies.
Indian Navy is racing against time to get aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya battle-ready before the onset of monsoon with fighter operations to begin at the end of this month even as the second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will be fully operational post monsoon.
It is understood that the Indian Navy’s battle posture was discussed during the Naval Commanders meeting onboard INS Vikrant this week with a MiG-29 K fighter and Tejas-M landing on the deck of India’s latest aircraft carrier. Powered by GE-turbine engines, the new vessel with fighters and anti-submarine warfare helicopters is set to dominate the Indo-Pacific in the coming years.
While the sea trials to make INS Vikrant fully battle ready are on, INS Vikramaditya will be handed over to the Indian Navy after a 15 month major overhaul by March 31. It is understood that fighter test landings and take-offs will soon begin after the handing over with the 45000 ton aircraft carrier with complement of MiG-29 K fighters battle ready before May 2023.
With both aircraft carriers battle-ready this year, the Narendra Modi government will have to take a decision on acquisition of 26 fighters including eight trainers for INS Vikrant. Even though US Boeing has offered to shift its F-18 manufacturing line to India, the other viable option is the French Rafale-M fighter which has operational commonality with IAF’s Rafale fighters. The two fighters were tested by the Indian Navy at its Goa based shore test facility last year and the report has been forwarded to the Department of Military Affairs to take a final decision based on the advice of the government.
The operationalization of both the aircraft carriers this year comes at a time when the PLA Navy is expanding its war fleet rapidly and is currently operating three aircraft carriers with the latest Fujian launched in June 2022. With the Xi Jinping regime making threatening noises to take over Republic of Taiwan, the US has also decided to replace Japan based USS Ronald Reagan, its sole forwardly deployed carrier, by 2025. The present warship will be replaced by USS George Washington with new unmanned refueling drone capabilities that will allow the fighters on board to be refueled some 800 kilometers away from the nuclear powered aircraft carrier. This will allow US aircraft carriers to operate beyond the reach of Chinese intermediate range DF 21 “carrier killer” missiles and allow America to send its carrier-based fighters to contested areas from long distances with unmanned refuelers
With China expected to send carrier patrols into the Indian Ocean by 2025, the QUAD navies will have enough firepower to deter any PLA Navy misadventure in the Indo-Pacific. India’s two aircraft carriers will be also patrolling the Indo-Pacific but their prime focus will remain the Indian Ocean Region right up to Australia and Africa’s eastern seaboard.