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India Asks International Defense Firms for Help With New Aircraft Carrier Design

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the deck of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, in Goa. PTI photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the deck of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, in Goa. PTI photo

The Indian Navy has reached out to four international defense contractors — including a Russian and U.S. firm — for help with the design of its next domestic aircraft carrier.
The service sent letters of request (LoR) to U.K. firm BAE Systems, DCNS in France, Lockheed Martin and Russia’s Rosoboronexport on July 15, according to a report in Jane’s Navy International.

The letter asks the firms to “provide technical and costing proposals” for India’s indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II) program — the planned 65,000-ton carrier Vishal.

“According to the LoR, the IAC-2 is envisaged as a 300 m-long flattop vessel with a catapult- assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) capability that can embark around 35 fighters and 20 helicopters,” read the Jane’s report.
“The LoR also includes the option of the IAC-2 being fitted with General Atomics’ Electro Magnetic Aircraft Launched System (EMALS) that will equip the U.S. Navy’s (USN’s) Gerald Ford-class carrier, which is due to be commissioned in 2016.”

Design work on Vishal began this year with $5 million set aside for early design efforts.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved to accelerate production of India’s carrier program in the last few years. India sough U.S. assistance for the IAC-2 program as a key component of the defense cooperation agreement India and the U.S. in January.

U.S. Navy officials told USNI News in June plans were underway for representatives of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) meet with their Indian counterparts to begin a carrier technology exchange.

India’s desire to include a CATOBAR system will allow the Indian Navy more options for fixed-wing aircraft it can launch from Vishal than its current Mikoyan MiG-29Ks fighters.

Currently the Indian Navy has only used short-take off but arrested recovery (STOBAR)( a so-called ski-jump configuration) on its Soviet-built Vikramaditya and the domestically built Vikrant (IAC-I) which limits the size of aircraft that can be launched from a deck.

Though a CATOBAR would allow more aircraft options, it’s much more difficult to design, maintain and operate.

Additionally, the Indians are debating nuclear or conventional propulsion for the new carrier and asked the four companies for input, reported Jane’s.

To build Vishal, at its proposed 65,000-ton size, will require new infrastructure in India’s shipyards.

According to the Jane’s report,”none of the existing Indian shipyards is capable of building a 65,000 tonne warship without substantial expansion.”

India’s first domestically built carrier, the 40,000-ton INS Vikrant launched last month from the Cochin Shipyard.



  • robertmathew

    Although a move that would enhance Indian expertise to master the foreign technologies, it is once again proves a fact that India is far behind in technology innovations. The engineering education highlights the need for minds of imagination and hereon innovations. India, relying on foreign technologies, cannot be considered self reliant but reliant. What use of incorporating foreign technology as the air craft will certainly be an easy target in a hostile situation. The US will offer the areas of target to Pakistan or even China. India is at least 100 years behind in all aspect of arms manufacturing.

    • IAF101

      You do realize that EMALs technology for launching aircraft is available ONLY with the USA? You do also realize that today dozens of nations collaborate and take expertise from companies around the world to arm their military ? This includes the USA.
      No nation or company is capable of meeting all its defense needs – nations that have the ability and the opportunity to get the best technology and best expertise to build their weapon systems would be fools to ignore it.

      • Secundius

        @ IAF101.

        And by NATO Countries, Australia, Japan, Taiwan. There’s nothing secret about the EMAL. Any Country with Rail-Gun Technology can build one…

        • IAF101

          EMALS was developed for the US Navy – not for NATO countries. Only two NATO countries operate carriers – one is the UK and the other is France, though the French rejoined NATO only in 2009. EMALS is not functional on any UK or French Aircraft carriers and neither have those nations have any move to develop their own such technology.

  • Karthik Sunder

    Asking for help, where technical expertise is clearly missing is a good move.

    Take Cryogenic Engines for example, the current ISRO rockets were all based on engines imported from Russia. However with exposure to the technology, India is slowly but surely developing competence in making its own cryogenic engines. This is despite the restrictions placed on this technology transfer by the US.

    India needs to build in-house competence, by exposure to these technologies, and perhaps with more involvement in the “integration” of these platforms. This is perhaps why the Rafale purchase is a step in the wrong direction for the “Make in India” initiative, even though the purchase is completely justified from a defence perspective.

    It took decades of R&D, based on active participation in two world wars for the US and its allies to develop the competence for building these carriers. India is developing this with little or no actual involvement in marine warfare – I see no problem with using help from others here, as long as it does not turn into another Admiral Gorshkov 😉 – That is a bullet that India definitely need to dodge.

    • Secundius

      @ Karthik Sunder.

      JATO Rocket’s or (aka, RATOG by the British) in nothing new. The first one use was in Germany in 1920 by Lippisch Ente. There routinely deployed on Ship’s equipped with Target Drone’s and Reconnaissance Drones. You better make sure the Flight Deck is Protected with Thermion. Or you ship’s is going to spend more time in the Repair Shipyard’s than at Sea…

      • Karthik Sunder

        I think they are pitching for CATOBAR, not RATOG. 🙂

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