Friday, 17 July 2015

India specifies 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, with catapult

Consultancy proposal to four global vendors reveals details of second indigenous aircraft carrier

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th July 15

For the first time, the size and specifications of the Indian Navy’s future aircraft carrier have been officially acknowledged. The navy has written to at least four major global shipbuilders, asking for proposals to help in designing a 65,000 tonne carrier that would be about 300 metres long.

The letter of request, issued by the Indian Navy on Wednesday, specifies the carrier should be capable of speeds greater than 30 knots (56 kilometres per hour). However, it is silent on whether it prefers nuclear propulsion, or conventional diesel or gas turbines.

The navy’s letter states the carrier will embark 30-35 fixed wing combat aircraft, and about 20 rotary wing aircraft (helicopters). It would have a catapult to launch fixed wing aircraft, which would make the carrier a “catapult launched but arrested landing”, or CATOBAR vessel. For India’s naval aviators, this would involve a major change from a long tradition of getting airborne from a “ski-jump” at the end of the flight deck.

While not mandating an “electromagnetic aircraft launch system” (EMALS), the navy has specifically mentioned it as an option. The United States Navy’s latest carrier, the 100,000-tonne USS Gerald R Ford, which will be commissioned next year, is the world’s only current carrier featuring EMALS. This uses an electromagnetic rail gun to accelerate aircraft to take-off velocity, instead of the conventional steam-driven catapults that have been used for 60 years.

The navy’s letter has gone out to US company, Lockheed Martin; UK company, BAE Systems, French shipbuilder, DCNS; and Rosoboronexport, the Russian defence export umbrella agency.

The letter pertains to the vessel that is commonly referred to as the “indigenous aircraft carrier number 2”, or IAC-2. Currently, Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) is building IAC-1, a 40,000-tonne carrier named INS Vikrant, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2018.

INS Vikrant will supplement INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-tonne carrier bought from Russia, which was formerly named the Gorshkov. Another, older carrier, INS Viraat, is expected to be retired by the end of this decade.

For years, the biggest guessing game around the Indian Navy’s future force has been: will IAC-2 be a massive, EMALS-equipped, nuclear-powered super carrier, developed in partnership with America? So far, admirals have been close-mouthed, saying the process of formulating specifications is under way.

Now, the guessing game is already shifting to: which shipbuilder does the navy’s specifications favour? The US remains the leading horse, not just because it is the world’s most experienced and technologically advanced carrier operator with more aircraft carriers in service than the rest of the world combined.

There is also a US-India “working group”, constituted during President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January, specifically to promote cooperation in aircraft carrier technology. New Delhi and Washington are known to have discussed EMALS under the rubric of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).

Yet, there could be others in the race. Vendors point out that the specifications framed by the navy bear similarities to the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle (in terms of speed and size, though not in displacement); and the British Queen Elizabeth II (in terms of displacement and size, though not in speed).

Surprisingly, the navy’s letter allows the foreign vendors just one week to respond, demanding a reply by July 22. The reply is required to contain costing elements along with the proposal.

“This involves evaluating a consultative, hand-holding process that will last at least a decade. There is no way anyone can produce a detailed cost proposal in such a short time”, complains a senior executive with one of the foreign vendors.

Experts have begun evaluating the implications of the navy’s specifications. It is pointed out that asking for 25-30 fighters and 20 helicopters on a 65,000 tonne, 300-metre-long carrier would limit the size of the aircraft on the ship. If heavy fighters are to be a part of the ship’s complement, it would need to be bigger; if the MiG-29K is retained, it would need a foldable nose to occupy less hangar space. The Naval Tejas, a small, light fighter that occupies little space, is also expected to feature in the complement of IAC-1 and IAC-2.

It is also pointed out that specifying a speed in excess of 30 knots eliminates certain forms of propulsion, notably an all-electric drive, which is environment friendly and economical.

13 comments:

Rituraj said...

You have not clarified whether 65,000 tons is the standard displacement or the maximum. Even then, following the rule of one aircraft for every 1000 ton displacement+10% margin, the aircraft carrier would be able to easily carry any aircraft in 36 fixed wing + 20 rotary wing combination. IN has for long argued that a minimum of 36 fixed wing fighters are required for better use of the carrier. Moreover, DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers are going to be all electric drive with speeds higher than 30 knots, then what stops the carrier from achieving it?

The most important thing to look out for would be the nuclear propulsion and aircraft combination. Whether IN is looking at Rafale + NLCA combo or AMCA + NLCA combo or F-35 + NLCA combo or even T-50/MiG-29 + NLCA combo, needs to be explored. Nevertheless, its a good start at least.

Anonymous said...


Rosoboronexport, the Russian defence export umbrella agency. ????

How many aircraft carriers have they / their group suppliers built in past 50 years?

Anonymous said...

INS... Equals... A... B... I... Navies...

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

Hi Col. Shukla,

What India needs to do immediately is to build two more of the same kind of IAC-1 carriers...

1. One for Arabian sea
2. One for Bay of Bengal
3. One for Indian Ocean
4. Above all a spare for restocking, maintenance, refitting, etc

So there will be continuity and it will evolve a doctrine of operations which is in urgent need for India with forays by China and others...

India must concentrate all the nuclear propulsion for submarines until they become very expert in building them ...Only then they should go for a nuclear carrier...even Britain is using conventional propulsion for next aircraft carrier...

By the time India builds two more carriers, the picture of Tejas, Mig-29K, and Rafale will become clear...and also all the things gets whetted...

I say India must not get stuck on a huge carrier at this stage...

Best regards,

Narotham Reddy, Ph. D.

Parthasarathi said...

@ Dr, Narotham Reddy, Ph. D.
Sir,
You are correct ! It is not only the aircraft carrier it needs the supporting ships also. And she needs to be protected. ( carrier battle group) It is huge cost. Can we maintain that cost year after year!
Only the defense planners can predict.
In my opinion submarines are more cost effective platforms than aircraft carriers. We need few more nuclear submarines.

Regards,

Anonymous said...

THE ADMIRALS ARE BEING MODEST . SINCE THE CARRIER WILL SERVE ATLEAST 50 YEARS IN THE NAVY WHY NOT GO THE WHOLE HOG AND BUILD A 85000 TO100000 TON CARRIER WHICH WILL BE OVER 360 MTS LONG
AND ONLY CONSTRAINED BY DRAUGHT IN INDIAS WESTERN COAST CONTINENTAL SHELF SHALLOW WATERS . IF THE DESIGNERS CAN MANAGE 12 METRES DRAFT IT WILL BE BIG BOON . A SUPER CARRIER WITH NUCLEAR PROPULSION AND EMALS WILL LET THE NAVY LAUNCH RAFAELS , F-35 , FGFA , AMCA AEW AND SUPPLY CRAFT

Anonymous said...

Why the talk on EMALS, if GA has not even been sent a letter?

ashok said...

THE NAVYS NEXT CARRIER WILL SAIL ALMOST INTO THE NEXT CENTURY , FROMA 6 /8 TRILLION DOLLAR ECONOMY WHEN THE CARRIER IS BUILT AND COMMISSIONED TOWARDS THE FAG END OF THE CENTURY AND HER LAST SAILINGS THE INDIAN ECONOMY BY 2080 WILL BE OVER 80 TRILLION DOLLARS . HER EXPORTS FROM 360 BILLION DOLLARS TODAY TO OVER 25 TRILLION DOLLARS , THE CARRIER WILL BE REQUIRED NOT ONLY FOR SOUTH CHINA SEA AND INDIA OCEAN BUT FOR WORLD WIDE OPERATIONS WHETHER SHE EMBARKS SEA VERSION T-50 AND MIGS OR F-35 OR AMCA AND LCAS ATLEAST THREE TO FOUR SQUNS OF FIGHTERS WILL BE REQUIRED WITH AEW SQUN E-3D AND 30 TO 40 ASW AND COMMANDO HEAVY LIFT CHOPPERS . THE ONLY CONSTRAINT BEING THE INDIAN CONTINENTAL SHELF SHALLOW WATERS OF THE WEST COAST , AND NO DEEP DRAFT HARBOURS . THE CHALLANGE FOR THE DESIGNERS WOULD BE TO KEEP THE DRAFT 12 TO 15 METRES , WHILST LENGTH OF 360 METRES AND BEAM WILL NOT BE A CONSTRAINT BERTHING AND REPAIR FACILTIES AT KARWAR CAN BE SET UP DURING PHASE THREE OF THE BASES EXPANSION . SECONDARY FACILTIES ON EAST COAST AND ANDAMAN ISLANDS INCLUDING PIPAVA IN GUJRAT ARE ALL FEASIBLE . THE NATIONS FIRST CARRIER SHOULD HAVE BEEN 50000 TO 65000 TONS THE NEXT MUST BE NO LESS THAN 85000 TO 100000 TONS THE NATION , NAVY MUST THINK BIG THE MONEY CAN BE FOUND FROM 65000 TO 85000 CRORES THE NET COST INCREASE WILL IN ANY CASE BE NO MORE THAN 15000 TO 25000 CRORES . THE ENHANCED CAPABILITY AND CAPACITY WITH WORLD WIDE OPERATIONS WILL MAKE THE CARRIE A FEARSOME MONSTER . THE ADMIRALS MUST THINK BIG AND CONVINCE THE CHOR BABUS AND POLITICIANS OF THE BENEFITS WHICH WILL INCUR INCLUDING BIG AND BETTER COMMISIONS FOR THEM.

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

Work on research and development and design and development of large aircraft carrier but it should be for decade or so ahead...
Follow Britain path of using conventional power for the first one...
Do not get into the scenario like INS Vikramaditya...

First priority should be two form 3 Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) that will be feared and develop future doctrines...

All the nuclear effort must be to build a dozen of evenly divided nuclear ballistic and attack submarines...This will give enough experience to build large nuclear reactors needed by carriers...

Do not bite more than you can chew...

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

Hi Parthasarathi,

You have a valid point about cost but a developing India may be able to support the costs of small aircaraft carriers and associated battle groups more easily than a super carrier that India is trying to plan...

Please do remember that a submarine and a ship has limitations in travel...they can only traverse so much distance and cover only so much areas...

Whereas the aircraft carrier with fighters, surveillance planes, multi-role helicopters, etc can reach far away from the aircraft carriers...so the carrier battle group accrues a great advantage and makes the enemies and even friends fear...they can keep track of enemy submarines...they will contribute a lot to the security of growing India...

Cost as always is a dampener but without such investments and sacrifices, the freedoms will always be at peril...So it is worth to spend...

May GOD help keep India safe and live in peace...

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Narotham S. Reddy Ph. D.

Unknown said...

India can not afford 2 Carrier Battle Groups. It is a sheer waste of money ... Ask Uncle Sam how much it costs. We don't have enough to support basic necessities and now want this crazy expense

Satish said...

We need at least 4 to 5 aircraft carrier battle groups. We need to understand that aircraft carriers can have 50 yr lifespan. What ever we start building today will be available till 2075. So we should anticipate the challenges in 2040/2050 while deciding on aircraft carrier.

I think INS Vishal will be a version of "Kitty Hawk" class aircraft carrier based on how the speces are defined. This looks like perfect fit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Hawk-class_aircraft_carrier

General characteristics
Displacement : 60,933 tons light [81,780 tons full load]
Length : 990 ft (300 m) waterline [1,069 ft (326 m) overall]
Beam : 130 ft (40 m) waterline [282 ft (86 m) extreme]
Draft : 38 ft (12 m)
Installed power: 280,000 shaft horsepower
Propulsion : Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 8 steam boilers, 4 shafts; 280,000 shp
Speed : 32 knots (59 km/h)
Range : 12,000 miles (19,300 km)
Crew : 3150 - Air Wing Crew=2,480
Aircraft carried : Up to 90 aircraft

Unknown said...

I have often seen people post comments saying that india cannot afford to build or maintain more carrier battle groups. I need to draw their attention to just three points.
1. The ships if built in India cause all that money spent in building these ships into Indian economy. The money inturn boosts many more small and bigg businesses.
2. Building ships boosts and adds to our technological know how. May be in near future our country may start exporting defence 3quipment to foriegn customers.
3. The current situation in the asian seas calls for increase in our naval strength. Even having 3 carrier groups may not be enough. Since china is building more carrier groups, we need to catch up fast.