U.S., Indian Officials Set to Discuss Aircraft Carrier Design in June

June 1, 2015 2:42 PM
An artist's conception of INS Vikrant. Indian Navy Image
An artist’s conception of INS Vikrant. Indian Navy Image

The head of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier design and engineering office is set to meet his Indian counterparts later this month to discuss the design of India’s next carrier, he told USNI News last week.

Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers Rear Adm. Tom Moore will lead a Navy contingent to work with the Indian navy on designing its next indigenous aircraft carrier program.

“Our two countries are working through a number of close relationships, and one of the things the Indians are interested in is learning more about aircraft carriers,” Moore told USNI News on Thursday.

“So I’m actually heading up a Navy contingent to work with the Indian navy on aircraft carrier technology to the point that we could help them with their desire to build an indigenous aircraft carrier over in the Indian navy.”

He characterized the talks as being in the formative stages, with the Indians still trying to determine what capabilities they’d want their carrier to have.

“We’ve got a series of meetings with them coming up, they are interested in obviously learning from us big picture stuff about how you start from a clean sheet of paper and what are the processes used to build a carrier,” Moore said.

“But they’re really in the process of figuring out, ‘how big do I want it to be, how many planes do I want it to carry,’ along those lines. So once we’ve had those conversations with them, we’ll certainly be happy to engage with them where it makes sense for us.”

Moore and his team will begin meeting with Indian navy officials next month, as the two countries have tightened their defense and non-defense relationships in the last several months.

The two countries agreed to “explore” sharing carrier technology and design and establish a working group under a larger January bilateral agreement.

President Barack Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in January, and Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall has made several trips to India to discuss current and potential defense partnerships.
India has begun early work on the indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II) program — the planned 65,000-ton Vishal — setting aside $5 million for early design efforts.

Vishal is thought to be a much more complex than India’s first indigenous carrier effort and could include a catapult launching system and nuclear power. The increased capability comes with an increased level of construction difficulty, which could necessitate the assistance of the U.S.

Indian officials have expressed some interest in General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) being installed on the U.S. Navy’s Gerald Ford-class carriers (CVN-78).

Meanwhile, the first domestic carrier, the 40,000-ton INS Vikrant was set to be re-launched on May 28 but action was delayed due to environmental considerations, according to local press reports.

The Modi government has made carrier construction a priority and accelerated completion of Vikrant and development of Vishal.

INS Viraat — the former U.K. Royal Navy carrier Hermes — is scheduled to retire next year which will leave the Soviet era INS Vikramaditya India’s sole carrier.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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