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Modi departs for 2-day visit to Astana, Kazakhstan to attend SCO Summit । India to be admitted as full member of SCO during the Summit । India signed Paris climate pact for its commitment towards protecting the environment, says EAM Sushma Swaraj । The EAM said this during MEA’s annual conference in New Delhi June 5 । It did not sign the pact of any greed or fear from any country: EAM । Ms Swaraj was rebutting US President Trump’s allegation saying India signed the deal to receive billions of foreign aid । India successfully launches communication satellite GSAT 19 June 5 । The heaviest ever rocket GSLV Mk III carrying GSAT 19 lifted off from SDSC (SHAR) Sriharikota । Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE cut diplomatic ties to Qatar । The 4 Gulf nations took the step following Qatar’s relations with Iran and support of Islamist groups। They also cut off its land, sea and air routes to the outside world । Libya, Yemen also joined the four Arab nations in snapping ties with Qatar । India, Russia sign pact for two nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu । INS Kalvari, the Indian Navy’s first Scorpene class submarine, will be battle ready from Day One, French collaborator DCNS announced June 1 । Kalvari, meaning shark, will be commissioned in July । Kalvari is the first of the six modern submarines ordered by the Indian Navy । Indian Navy is looking at 200 ships and 400 aircraft, all with hitech systems । Vice Adm Karambir Singh also told a seminar on Future Indian Navy that poor quality systems are not acceptable । Indian shipyards are building 40 ships at present । PM Modi reaches St. Petersburg in the 3rd leg of his 4-nation visit । He is to participate in 18th India Russia Annual Summit and SPIEF 2017 । India, Spain sign 7 agreements including one each on Cyber Security and Civil Aviation । Naval Chief Adm Sunil Lanba calls for cutting edge technologies with a Made in India stamp । Addressing a seminar on Building India’s Future Navy, he said ToT from foreign vendors would be say now with Strategic Partnership model । Adm Lanba said selection process for shipboard fighter is moving at desired pace and they should be inducted in about 5 years । About 80 killed, several injured in a bomb blast near Indian embassy in Kabul । Indian embassy staff were safe: MEA । PM reached Madrid on the second leg of his tour for a day- long visit to Spain May 31 । India, Germany sign 11 MoUs including one on Cyber Security । MoUs signed during Prime Minister Modi’s 2-day Germany visit on May 29-30 । We are made for each-other, says PM Modi on India-Germany ties । The Prime Minister is on 4-nation tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France from May 29-June 3 । India’s distinguished police officer, Mr KPS Gill passed away at 82 । Hassan Rouhani re-elected Iranian President । Prime Minister Modi congratulated him on his re-election । India, Palestine sign 5 MoUs including one on visa exemption for diplomatic passport holder । Agreements were signed after Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with President Abbas May 16 । Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas is on 4-day State visit to India beginning May 14 । Abbas is visiting India on the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee । This is the fifth visit and the third State visit of President Abbas to India । Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Colombo May 11 on his two-day visit to Sri Lanka । He was received by his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickramsinghe on his arrival at the Colombo airport । PM Modi is the chief guest at the International Vesak Day celebrations of Sri Lanka । India marks 19th National Technology Day । National Technology Day is marked to commemorate the anniversary of Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998 । On this day, Prime Minister Modi hails the then PM Vajpayee’s courage to conduct the nuclear tests । India launches GSAT-9 satetllite from Sriharikota । India to make Israeli rifles and small arms । Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) collaborating in the venture 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Visakhapatnam for collaboration । Indian Navy successfully test-fires land attack version of Brahmos supersonic cruise missile । Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari calls on President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister in New Delhi Apr 18 । Nepalese President is on a State visit to India April 17-21 । This is her first ever visit to India since taking over in 2015 । She was given a ceremonial Guard of Honour on her arrival at Rashtrapati Bhawan । Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Singh Sajjan, called on Defence Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday । He was presented a Tri-Services Guard of Honour on his arrival at South Block । 12 killed in Saudi military helicopter in Yemen । Unconfined reports say the Blackhawk was accidentally shot down by a Saudi Patriot missile। US NSA Gen HR McMaster meets Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi । Gen McMaster also exchanged views on Indo-US relations with Indian counterpart Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar । Happy Easter । US drops its biggest 21,000 pound bomb on ISIS in Afghanistan April 13 । Designated GBU 43, the Mother of All Bombs is designed to hit deep caves and tunnels in hardy mountains । GBU 43 is the biggest non-nuclear bomb, carried by the US Air Force (USAF) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) । White House Press Secretyary Sean Spricer confirmed the night bombing but there was no immediate word from Taliban । Spicer said the ISIS terroists were targeted as they used the caves and tunnels to hit the US forces । GBU 43 is a concussion bomb carrying an explosive charge of 8,500 kg, equal to 11 tons of TNT । India, Australia sign 6 MoUs including on Combating Terrorism and Civil Aviation Security । Agreements signed during Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s Visit to India April 10 । He calls on President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi । This is the first ever visit of Turnbull after taking over as Australian PM in 2015 । The Australian PM along with his Indian counterpart took a Delhi metro ride to visit city-based Akshardham Temple । India, Bangladesh signed 22 agreements April 8 including key pacts on defence cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation । India announced an additional $4.5-billion concessional line of credit for infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, and another $500 million for Dhaka to procure defence equipment from New Delhi । A joint India-Bangladesh event saw both PMs honour the 1,661 Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 war for Bangladesh’s independence । Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrives in New Delhi for 4-day State visit to India । Prime Minister Modi himself goes to the airport to greet the Bangladesh PM on her arrival । External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj calls on Sheikh Hasina at Rashtrapati Bhawan । She is the special guest of President Pranab Mukherjee during her State visit to India । The Bangladesh PM has a full day of bilateral discussions with her Indian counterpart on Saturday (April 8) । 20 agreements are expected to be signed between India and Bangladesh । India, Malaysia sign 7 agreements । The agreements signed during Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s visit to India from March 30 to April 4 । Malaysian PM calls on President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi । India and Malaysia joint statement, issued after Modi, Razak meeting, calls for a deeper ties between the two nations ।
June 22, 2017
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Relevance of Aircraft Carriers for the Indian Navy

By Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha (Retd) Published: December 2016

New Delhi. The age old debate rages on worldwide between strategists of both blocks, the ayes and naysayers, on the relevance of the aircraft carriers with respect to their combat power vs. vulnerability. This has undergone periodic pendulous harmonics. Whether it is the US, Russia, United Kingdom and now China apart from India, the debate is identical. Even in countries with fewer maritime ambitions, such as Italy, Brazil, Spain and Thailand, this debate has been used either to acquire or to scuttle the process.


The very famous critique of aircraft carriers John Lehman who articulated all ills of this platform when not part of the US administration, found himself appointed as the Navy Secretary by President Ronald Reagan after an administration change in the US. He, after much briefing on strategy and geopolitical realities, authored the policy of 13-carrier Navy for the US. This policy remains the driving policy document of force structure till date, although a couple of years ago, President Barrack Obama mentioned 11 carriers in his Asia-Pacific Pivot Policy.

The United Kingdom Navy aircraft carrier force was scuttled completely by none other than the Royal Air Force post demise of the Soviet Union and the Cold War by justifying diminished Soviet threat from long range maritime patrol aircraft. The Strategic Defence Review document outsourced the fleet air defence and strike from seawards role of the Royal Navy to the NATO despite their carriers having proven their worth in the Falklands (Malvinas) conflict with the Argentines in 1982.

In the post Soviet era, Russia is also attempting to resurrect its naval power as a necessity towards greatness, but has only one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, deployed in Mediterranean for operations in the ongoing Syria/ Iraq ISIS conflict.

Emergence of Chinese Naval power

China, which was not a great maritime player till not so distant past, has literally churned out numerous diesel/electric submarines as also several nuclear powered boats in pursuance of its near sea and apparently larger global ambitions. In a White paper, China had declared in 2015 that it will now be concentrating on far sea Maritime capability, pre-positioning warships – like the way US Navy does.

Carrier Task Forces are apparently part of such a strategy, although China does not always give details.

Traditional thinking that land warfare is all important is irrelevant in Beijing today and China has decided to master far Sea Operational ability keeping in consonance with its growing stature in the world. Acquisition of naval bases, Gwadar from Pakistan in the Indian Ocean, is its biggest strategic asset.

China commissioned its aircraft carrier Liaoning in 2012 and a number of pilots have qualified from her deck by now. Construction of a second carrier is underway and there are reports that work on few more carriers is also in progress.

It is only matter of time that the Chinese Navy will emerge in the Indian Ocean in a big way with two naval bases, Djibouti and Gwadar, supporting carrier and submarine operations.

The recent agreement between China and Malaysia to develop the port of Malacca will lead to the Chinese Navy having major operational presence in all three critical choke points in the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR), i.e., Gulf of Oman (mouth of the Strait of Hormuz), Gulf of Aden (Exit from Red Sea) and Malacca Straits. Its aircraft carrier (s) and submarines will provide capability to block and disrupt adversaries transiting through these crucial sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific.

It may be kept in mind that China is building anti aircraft carrier missiles but then its own carriers will also face similar threats. India Supersonic Brahmos cruise missile is a very potent weapon for both attack and counter measures.

US Naval Power

The US Navy has dominated the oceans for decades now.

It has a declared strong presence in the Indian Ocean as well as the Pacific, and it has refused to accept the unilateral annexation of the South China Sea by Beijing.

The US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers, and this is the number that is likely to stay in the coming years. The potency of the carrier based aircraft is bound to be strengthened by the induction of 5th Generation F 35 aircraft and land-based long range Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) like the General Atomics Predators and Northrop Grumman Global Hawks which can stay over the waters for nearly 30 to 40 hours.

China will take time to match the US strength but then, given an assertive intent and access to land bases like Gwadar, the Chinese Navy can cause enough of headache to the US and other navies.

Nonetheless, the election of a new president notwithstanding, the US Navy will continue to dominate the oceans with new generation of warships, submarines, aircraft and high technology assets, cyber disruptions included.

The US Navy will continue to be the most formidable force to check dominance of the waters by China.

The Role of Indian Navy

What does the rise of Chinese Navy and its collaboration with the Pakistani Navy mean for the Indian Ocean countries, particularly India?

The Indian Navy’s procurements have remained stymied by complicated procedures and internal roadblocks of the Finance and Defence ministries where many have shown lack of strategic foresight. Fortunately, with the present political dispensation, there has been a welcome change and, in a recent seminar on submarines, the Indian Defence Minister has at least called for a larger number of underwater boats than earlier planned.

With that mindset, the direction towards aircraft carriers should also be positive.

Notably, a Carrier Strike Group remains the fastest means of deployment of forces whether it is in a show of force or in support of own land operations as well as for providing security to friendly countries in the IOR.

As India does not have a policy of overseas basing, a carrier force remains the only suitable alternative for a regional power like India to conduct out of area contingencies. In any case, foreign bases are expensive and difficult to get given the nature of political dimensions.

That increases the relevance of aircraft carriers.

With the arrival of the Chinese, their basing rights in Djibouti and Gwadar, Equity holding (likely) in Colombo South port, and Maldives increasingly falling in the Chinese lap and, importantly Pakistan becoming a proxy state of China, IOR maritime scenario has become more uncertain and complex.

With the de-induction of Sea Harriers and impending decommissioning of the Viraat, INS Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier that the Indian Navy has for operations in the entire IOR. There is no doubt that Mig 29 K fighters and Kamov31 helicopters have provided force multiplication to the Indian Navy’s firepower. The AEW capability of the Ka 31 and its data link compatibility with the Mig 29 K/ Vikramaditya combination has added speed to execution of both interception and strike tasks at, and from sea.

The longer endurance of the Mig 29K permits it to perform dual tasking in the same sortie. With the Indian Air Force’s fighter force just about adequate for tasking in two front air warfare situation, till such time the Rafale gets inducted, Mig 29Ks will provide breathing space to the IAF’s downsized inventory by freeing it from certain maritime roles.


But the question is: Is it adequate?

The Indian Navy has 45 Mig 29Ks, much more than what Vikramaditya can operate. The ship has two carrier borne squadrons, Numbers 300 and 303. A Training Squadron is also in the offing.

India’s Long Term Perspective Plan envisages at least two operational aircraft carriers at any one time with the third one as hot reserve to substitute during maintenance of either. Therefore, the next two aircraft carriers become an urgent operational necessity,

The first indigenous aircraft carrier IAC-1 or Vikrant is being built at the Kochi Shipyard. Due out in a couple of years, it will operate both the Mig 29K and the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy as and when it becomes a reality some years later.

Significantly, there are reports that US experts have found Vikrant falling short of meeting operational tasks in her present state of construction. These glitches are bound to occur given that it is the first time an Indian yard is attempting to build an aircraft carrier. Processes of development are always slow and painstaking. These may not produce a carrier of the class of the US, but it will be an Indian aircraft carrier. The next one would be better.

There is a technological and production engineering process gap of 70 years between the US and India. We hope our shipbuilders learn fast to bridge the gap.

India has over 50 years of experience in maintaining and operating aircraft carriers and carrier borne aircraft. A very confident return to tail-hook aviation after a VSTOL era of over 33 years bears testimony to Navy’s professionalism.

Building a carrier strong Navy is the only way forward.

Vice Admiral Sinha (PVSM AVSM NM & Bar – Gallantry) is a former Naval Aviator. He retired as Commander in Chief of the Western Naval Command.




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