New Delhi: In a major move, the Indian Navy’s proposal for construction of a second aircraft carrier at a cost of around Rs 40,000 crore is set to be considered positively by the government. The Defence Procurement Board (DPB) has accorded in-principle approval to the ambitious proposal signalling the government’s readiness to go for the second indigenous aircraft carrier, to be known as IAC II, according to defence sources.
The proposal will shortly be placed before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the defence ministry’s top body on procurement, the sources said. The DAC, headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is likely to meet on this week and it is learnt that the proposal for the IAC-II will be examined by it. The DAC is also likely to consider the Indian Air Force’s proposal for procurement of an additional batch of 97 Tejas Mark-1A aircraft at a cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore, the sources added.
The construction of IAC-II with a displacement of 45,000 tonnes and estimated to cost close to Rs 40,000 with the envisaged specifications, was strongly being pushed by the Indian Navy. Having a three-carrier battle group is important for the Indian Navy as a show of strength. The Navy has been pitching for three aircraft carriers to deal with China’s growing naval prowess and its growing influence over the Indian Ocean region.
An enlarged fleet also gives India the flexibility to exert influence in the faraway seas with its presence, the sources said.
INS Vikrant (IAC I), India’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier was commissioned in September by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Built at a cost of around Rs 23,000 crore, INS Vikrant has a sophisticated air defence network and anti-ship missile systems. It has the capacity to hold 30 fighter jets and helicopters. At the commissioning ceremony of the vessel, Modi called it a “floating city” and that it is a reflection of India becoming self-reliant in defence.
According to the sources, the IAC II will be kind of a repeat order of the IAC I. According to the plan, the IAC II will be built by state-run Cochin Shipyard. At present, India has two aircraft carriers — INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. INS Vikramaditya is a Russian origin platform. The INS Vikrant has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers. INS Vikrant has a top speed of around 28 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles.
The DAC is also set to clear the procurement of additional 97 Tejas Mark 1A aircraft, the sources said. With the additional fleet, the number of indigenously-developed Tejas aircraft being procured by the IAF would go up to 180. In February 2021, the defence ministry sealed a Rs 48,000 crore deal with state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for procurement of 83 Tejas MK-1A jets for the IAF.