As indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant gears up to become fully operational later this year, the Indian Navy has put on display its multi-carrier operations, with the coordinated deployment of Vikrant, INS Vikramaditya and more than 35 aircraft in the Arabian Sea. This marks a significant milestone in the Indian Navy’s pursuit of enhancing maritime security and the projection of its power in the Indian Ocean and beyond, the navy spokesperson said.
“The exercise involved seamless integration of two aircraft carriers — INS Vikramaditya and the indigenously built INS Vikrant — along with a diverse fleet of ships, submarines and aircraft, showcasing India’s technological expertise in the maritime domain,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This demonstration of naval prowess underscores India’s commitment to safeguarding its national interests, maintaining regional stability, and fostering cooperative partnerships in the maritime domain,” the spokesperson added.
Floating sovereign airfields
INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, the centrepieces of the exercise, serve as “floating sovereign airfields”, providing a launch platform for a wide array of aircraft, including MiG-29K fighter jets, MH-60R, Kamov, Sea King, Chetak and Dhruv helicopters. “These mobile bases can be positioned anywhere, allowing for increased mission flexibility, timely response to emerging threats and sustained air operations to safeguard our national interests across the globe. In addition, they provide our friends with an assurance that the Indian Navy is capable and ready to support our ‘collective’ security needs in the region,” the spokesperson said.
The construction, operation and maintenance of aircraft carriers is complex and expensive and a niche capability limited to a handful of countries. Arguing that the successful demonstration of twin-carrier battle group operations serves as a powerful testament to the pivotal role of sea-based air power in maintaining maritime superiority, the spokesperson said, “As India continues to strengthen its security apparatus, significance of aircraft carriers will remain paramount in shaping the nation’s defence strategy and promoting regional stability.”
Requesting another carrier
The Russian-origin INS Vikramaditya, with a displacement of 44,500 tonnes, sailed out of the dockyard recently after a long refit.
Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar has said that INS Vikrant, with a displacement of of 42,800 tonnes and commissioned into the navy last September, will be fully operational by year-end, as reported by The Hindu earlier. Adm. Kumar had also said that the navy was finalising plans to approach the government to repeat the order for a Vikrant-sized carrier — Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-2 — with some modifications. Given the long timelines, it is likely to end up as a replacement for INS Vikramaditya.
As part of the operationalisation, Vikrant will shortly go for scheduled maintenance within the warranty period by the manufacturer Cochin Shipyard Limited.
As part of ongoing air certification and INS Vikrant’s flight integration trials with rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft to reach a combat-ready state, the navy achieved a historic milestone by undertaking the maiden night landing of MiG-29K jets on May 24. Earlier, the maiden day landings of MiG-29K and the indigenous light combat aircraft took place on February 6, followed by day and night landing trials of all helicopters in the naval inventory.