How does Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier serve India? explained

Indian Navy is planning to build a nuclear-powered super aircraft carrier and is in the final phase of finalizing the plan. The super-carrier will be called ‘Vishal’, with a pre-fix named INS upon commissioning.

Now, the Navy says that it will enable Indian government with enhanced reach and ‘longer sea-legs’, and that it was really needed after Navy destroyed ‘Vikrant’ saying it was getting old and wrecked.

The nuclear energy which will power the Carrier will help it to sail for months without needing refueling. Navy has said that it will need nuclear reactor generating at least 180MW for propulsion. The Navy is in talks with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) for building the aircraft carrier which is to be built with the help of United States as reported by Defence News.

India’s second indigenous Aircraft carrier is slowly taking shape and the Navy has finally outlines the specifications for it.  The Carrier will have track-length of 300 meters, longer than the 264 meters of the first indigenous Aircraft Career INS Vikrant.

‘Vishal’ is expected to be around 60-70,000 tonnes, that’s more than any previous carrier India had commission so far. INS Vikrant, which is decommissioned now, was of 18,000 tonnes, INS Viraat, which is soon to be decommissioned displaces 24,000 tonnes, while currently operational INS Vikramaditya displaces 45,000 tonnes, the highest for India yet. But ‘Vishal’ will be way ahead of all of them in terms of all build-up.

India hopes to have the carrier up and going by 2028, I’d say more like 2038 given the past record. But nonetheless, its well worth it and a tremendous initiative. Here we analyse the pros and cons of Indian Navy’s to be launched nuclear powered Aircraft carrier. If you thought it would be one-sided debate, I’m sorry but there seem to be more cons here than pros. Here we go with them.

Cons

Obviously this would forecast a ‘sea change’ (if I may use the pun) in India’s defensive strategy. A nuclear carrier isn’t intended for the Bay of Bengal and similar. It’s for global force projection. Traditionally powered ships can be had for far less money in both the short and long term, and would serve well for local operations. So, unless India’s strategic plans include a global role it will be throwing money away on a high-tech toy that only displays what it can do, not what it should do.

To say that a carrier is a floating airport, nothing more, would be suffice since what counts is what is on it. The carrier will only be the beginning of the expense. It will need to carry 3-4000 crew, and 30 to 50 of the most advanced fighter/bombers (and spare parts) along with their aircrews and munitions. Since this will all be a sizable investment, there will need to be a protective fleet. Will this also be nuclear powered? If not, then why have a nuclear powered carrier? When the fleet goes in, the carrier isn’t going to sit out in the ocean like a rubber duck. Or will there be two fleets, one in port being serviced while the second is out with the carrier? Yup, the cost of the carrier is just the beginning. Pardon my ignorance, but how does this really serve India well?

They could have still continued with Vikrant instead of scrapping it. The work of air craft carrier is to take its mobile Air force from place to place which it was doing quite well and it carried a good contingent of guns and missiles to defend itself. What more our navy or for that matter the politicians were expecting Vikrant to do.

To simply explain it in a story, A carrier is a superstar in movie which makes script unnecessary. Indians are always impressed by superstars while not working on real script which in this case is development of coastal infra and waterways.A superstar like this carrier is necessary but not sufficient for India’s needs. Coastal infra will give us employment growth as well as increased security.

Pros

The Indian Ocean is a huge ocean and India sits bang in the center. It stretches from Australia to Africa and India to Antarctica. 80% of world transits through it. We have two conventional carriers but need heavier carriers with longer endurance to guard this ocean. Can’t leave it to the Chinese or Americans for that matter.

Moreover, India is already far behind the developed nations in terms of technological advancements in Defence sector. It may have proved more budget-friendly and successful in Space Research and Information Communications sector, but Defence sector is the one where country’s pride and force lies.

Navy has proposed to get this super-carrier going by 2028 and if it remains out of the reach of the dirty politicians, who will pick up any debate just for the sake of some limelight, we might actually get it by the promised time. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

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