Navy looks at inter-governmental route to buy new carrier-based jets

Country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant will be commissioned next month

July 05, 2022 09:11 pm | Updated 09:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Indigenous Aircraft Carrier ‘Vikrant’ sets out as it commenced its sea trials from the naval dockyard in Kochi. File.

Indigenous Aircraft Carrier ‘Vikrant’ sets out as it commenced its sea trials from the naval dockyard in Kochi. File. | Photo Credit: AFP

The Navy is looking for an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with either France or the U.S. to procure new fighter jets to operate from its aircraft carriers, as the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant is all set to be commissioned next month coinciding with 75 years of Independence, Navy officials said on Tuesday.

The Navy also has the Russian-origin carrier, INS Vikramaditya, in service.

“There has been an operational demo by Dassault Rafale and Boeing F-18. Trials are done. Because the Navy required aircraft which can take off from its carriers…The report is yet to come in on the op-demo. Once that comes in, we will do a staff evaluation. Preferably it will be an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) case. That is the recommendation from the Navy,” said Commodore Pankaj Chauhan, in-charge of Air Acquisition at the Naval Headquarters.

Elaborating, Vice Chief of the Naval Staff Vice Adm. S. N. Ghormade said the trials of Rafale and F-18 Super Hornet had been done to prove their capability to operate from aircraft carriers. “Our aim is indigenisation. We have a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) plan but it will take some time,” he said referring to the new indigenous jet underdevelopment, adding in the interim they are looking for an aircraft from among the two to meet their requirements.

“The report is yet to come in on the operational demonstration. We will expedite the process....” he stated on the selection process.

In 2017, the Navy floated the Request For Information (RFI) to procure 57 twin-engine carrier fighter which is now set to be downsized to around 26, including a few twin-seater trainer variants. A final decision on the number would be taken soon, officials said.

Vikrant, constructed by Cochin Shipyard Limited, was set to go for the final round of sea trials this weekend, officials said. The sea trials were likely to go on for a couple of weeks. After that it would be handed over to the Navy, which would conduct the aviation trials that would go on for over a year. The carrier is set to be commissioned in early August for which the dates are being worked out.

Seminar on indigensiation

The Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) is scheduled to hold a major international seminarand exhibition on naval innovation and indigenisation, ‘Swavlamban’, later this month.

The NIIO, which was launched by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in August 2020, provides a flexible and accessible interface for academia and industry with Indian Navy capability development apparatus, officials said. In the last two years, 38 IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) applications have been filed by Navy personnel, Vice Adm. Ghormade said.

Stating that during the seminar there would be quite a few surprises and announcements which would be music to the ears of the industry, Vice Adm. Ghormade said one example was the unclassified version of the ‘Unmanned Roadmap’ to be unveiled during the event. The Navy unveiled the unmanned roadmap for adopting unmanned solutions in its fleet.

To a question, the Vice Chief said the construction of two stealth frigates in Russia was underway and the effort was to ensure that there was no impact of the war in Ukraine.

Another focus at the seminar would be the outreach to littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). About 20-25 IOR countries had been invited, Cmde Shantanu Jha, Principal Director Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence, said.

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