Indian Navy puts on hold plans for bigger aircraft carrier; mulls repeat of Vikrant-sized carrier: Navy Chief

Adm. Kumar says Navy keeping track of Chinese ships in the region to ensure that “they do not undertake any inimical activities”

December 03, 2022 01:32 pm | Updated December 04, 2022 12:37 pm IST - New Delhi

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar at the annual press conference ahead of Navy Day.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar at the annual press conference ahead of Navy Day. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Indian Navy, has for now, “put on hold” the plan for a bigger Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) and is examining the possibility of a repeat order for a Vikrant-sized carrier built indigenously as part of its requirement for a third carrier, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral R. Hari Kumar said while stating that the Navy has made a commitment to the top leadership to be fully AatmaNirbhar by 2047. To a question on the eight Indian Navy veterans under solitary confinement in Qatar, he said continuous efforts are on to resolve this. 

“This has been taken up with all agencies involved and at the highest leadership in the country. There is continuous effort and we are hopeful that it will be resolved,” he said speaking at the annual press conference ahead of Navy Day. 

On IAC-2, Adm. Kumar said they are still working on what size it should be and what are the capabilities desired etc. “Right now we have put a hold on it because we have just commissioned Vikrant. We are very happy with the ship, the way the ship performed in the trials. Lot of expertise has been gained in building IAC-1 in Cochin shipyard. Lot of ancillary industries have come up which is AatmaNirbhar in full bloom. We are also examining if we should repeat order an IAC-1 instead of going for an IAC-2 to capitalise on the expertise available in the country and how we can plough back into the economy,” he said. This is all in the discussion stage right now and we have not firmed up our mind nor have we taken it to the government, he stated.

The Navy has been pushing for a second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-II) based on its force structure centered around three carriers. The country’s first IAC Vikrant was commissioned in October and is gearing up for aviation trials. Earlier the Navy had envisaged an IAC-2 with a displacement of 65,000 tonne with Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) for launching aircraft and full electric propulsion.

Speaking of the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of sailors, the Navy Chief said 3,000 Agniveers have joined the training facility at INS Chilka of which 341 are women. “This is a landmark event for us as we are inducting women sailors for the first time,” he said also announcing that from next year they are looking at inducting women officers across all branches. Elaborating on this, Commodore Shantanu Jha said the 341 women sailors would be inducted into 29 trades in the Navy.

On continued presence of Chinese ships and research vessels in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Adm. Kumar said there are lot of Chinese ships which operate in the region. “There are about four to six Navy ships, then some research vessels and also fishing vessels as also around 60-odd ships of extra-regional forces,” he said stating that as a resident power they keep track and ensure that “they do not undertake any inimical activities.”

To a question on the Quad grouping comprising of India, Australia, Japan and the US, the CNS said it is just the coming together of likeminded countries, democracies which have similar values. “It’s not an alliance, not a military treaty or anything like that. Just coming together of likeminded countries,” he stressed.

On the deal for 30 Predator High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles from the US, which has been delayed, Adm. Kumar said the case is under progress. “We are at a stage where we are discussing if numbers need to be rationalised or kept as it is,” he stated. For the last one and a half years, the Navy has been operating two Predator UAVs taken on lease from General Atomics which the Navy has found great value, Adm. Kumar said and provides much reach in terms of surveillance in the IOR.

Referring to the change of the Naval insignia which was done to do away with colonial vestiges, the CNS said the direction from top leadership was very clear and referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talk on Panch Pran from the Red Fort and said they strongly support the view that we have to get away from this ‘Gulami ki Mansikta Se Mukti’. “In pursuance of that end, the Navy will continue to proactively identify redundant or archaic practices, process or symbols that could, either be discontinued, or modified in consonance with modern day realities,” he added.

On budgetary allocation, the Navy Chief said this year it was 17.8% which is quite adequate and in terms of spending they have been able to manage it “quite well” and have achieved a Revenue to Capital expenditure ratio of 32%-68%, which he said accords “flexibility in pursuing their capability developments plan.”

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