India – Realisation of a Two Aircraft Carrier Dream

It was a dream that India saw just two years after the debacle along the Indo-China border in 1962 – to have a two aircraft carrier navy. And it will be in 2012 that India will be able to realize this long cherished dream as Admiral Gorshkov rechristened as INS Vikramaditya joins its fleet by year end.


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The aircraft carrier is floating Indian city with tricolour atop declaring to everyone that it is a sovereign India where only Indian law of land applies. As India rises in its stature, these aircraft carriers will help in projecting power beyond its border.

The importance of strong military was brought home to the political class after India’s loss at the hands of Chinese military in 1962. An Emergency Cabinet Committee in 1964 gave approval for operating two floating deck carriers that will help Indian Navy to operate its strike aircraft well beyond its coastline.

Sources say that 44,000 ton Admiral Gorshkov with a full-fledged runway and a battery of MiG-29 K aircraft and helicopters will be inducted on December 4, making Indian Navy a two aircraft carrier navy – one each for Western and Eastern seaboard. Many of the sailors experienced in operating aircraft carrier will get transferred to Vikramaditya.

The achievement will add another punch to the Indian Navy’s maritime capabilities as it is only the fifth country after the US, UK, Russia and France to operate an aircraft carrier. The skill has been honed over a period of over 25 years.

With INS Viraat undergoing a massive refurbishment in 2009 at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), it is going to be in service till 2018. And the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) named INS Vikrant – named after Indian Navy’s former floating runway – will be joining its fleet when INS Vikrant will be on way out around 2018.

“INS Vikrant was floated out recently from CSL and was again brought into dry dock after some testing,” said an official.

The capability to operate an aircraft carrier at long distances for long durations has been a reflection of a country’s might and when navies like Germany and Australia lost their aircraft carrier operating capability they were reduced to merely coastal police role.

Also this is one capability of Indian Navy that even makes China’s PLA Navy turn green with envy as it has also been striving to attain long maritime legs by acquiring a floating deck carrier. And even if is able to acquire an aircraft carrier today it will take them nearly a decade to excel in operationalising their strategy around aircraft carrier. “Any navy worth its salt will like to operate an aircraft carrier and one aspiring to operate one will be envious of the force already having it. But it is a skill acquired over a period of time we have taken over 25 years,” said INS Viraat skipper Captain AB Singh.


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