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India to commission first home-built carrier, but lacking jets on deck

By Devjyot Ghoshal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) India will formally commission its first home-built aircraft carrier on Friday, the culmination of 17 years of construction and tests because the country seeks to meet up with regional rival China and its own far larger naval fleet.

The INS Vikrant however won’t have its fleet of fighter jets on deck and instead will depend on several Russian-designed aircraft borrowed from Indias only other carrier, the INS Vikramaditya.

Frances Dassault and Boeing are locked in a race to supply the Indian government with over two dozen jets earmarked for the Vikrant, a 262 metre-long vessel built at the state-run Cochin Shipyard in southern India.

The Indian Navy and Indias defence ministry didn’t react to questions from Reuters.

Created by the Indian Navy, the carrier may be the largest warship to be built-in the country, in a position to accommodate a crew of around 1,600 and operate a fleet of 30 aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters.

A lot more than 75% of the ships components are indigenously procured, with six major industrial firms and over 100 smaller businesses providing equipment and machinery, in accordance with Indias defence ministry.

The Vikrant will undoubtedly be commissioned on Friday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after completing almost per year of sea trials.

The ultimate proof the pudding may be the shipsperformance during sea trials. Although it appears to be behaving pretty much, stability wise,aircraft operations have yet to commence. One hopes it’ll be successful story completely, former Chief of Indias Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash told Reuters.

Due to our typically disjointed decision-making process, selecting an aircraft got de-linked from the carrier project, and a choice is yet to be studied, he said.

We knew the ship was apt to be commissioned this season, and the choice process along with negotiations must have started well with time, perhaps 3 to 4 years earlier.

The Vikrant also lacks a naval radar system, recent images published by the Navy suggested, said Prathamesh Karle, a naval analyst at defence intelligence company Janes.

It could hence take the time for Vikrant to be operationally deployed alongside its aircraft, Karle told Reuters.

Critical shortfall

India comes with an estimated 40 Russian-made MiG-29Ks which mainly are powered by the Vikramaditya a repurposed Russian vessel. Some of these fighters will now be induced to the Vikrant.

If an aircraft carrieris to be produced operational, then your main weapon may be the air wing, right? So, it will be considered a critical shortfall, said Kamlesh Kumar Agnihotri, a senior fellow at New Delhis National Maritime Foundation think-tank.

Otherwise the aircraft carrier will never be in a position to be exploited optimally, the retired naval captain added.

With the Vikrants entry, India can deploy an aircraft carrier on both its eastern and western seaboards and expand its maritime presence, even though Indian navy still lags behind key regional rival, China.

The worlds two most populous countries share a border, a few of that is disputed, where there have been deadly skirmishes between their military in 2020.

The Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy has around 355 vessels, including two aircraft carriers, around 48 destroyers, 43 frigates and 61 corvettes, in accordance with Karle.

In June, China launched its third aircraft carrier, which includes a full-length flight deck with a catapult launch system unlike Indias smaller carriers that use ski-jumps.

Indias existing fleet includes one aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 12 frigates and 20 corvettes.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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