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Indian Navy Warship

INS Rana of the Indian Navy's Western Fleet leads the passing exercise formation, behind the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. US Navy Photo by Torrey Lee

India’s Naval Ambitions: 160 Warships And Second Carrier By 2030

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November 28, 2023

By Sudhi Ranjan Sen (Bloomberg) India is set to add another aircraft carrier to its fleet worth almost 400 billion rupees ($4.8 billion) as it seeks to counter China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean region, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Defense Acquisition Council — the country’s top defense decision making body headed by defense minister, Rajnath Singh — is expected to clear the acquisition of its second indigenous carrier on Friday, people with direct knowledge of the development said, asking not to be named because the discussions are private. 

The new carrier, which can hold at least 28 fighter jets and helicopters and displaces 45,000 tons of water — a measure of size for ships, will be flying the French Rafale jets, the people said. India’s first homemade carrier, INS Vikrant, joined the fleet last year and was built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The country also has a Russia-made aircraft carrier.

A three-carrier battle group will be a show of strength for the Indian navy in the Indian Ocean at a time when the naval wing of the China’s People’s Liberation Army — the largest navy in the world, with 370 ships and submarines — is increasingly marking its presence in the region. An enlarged fleet also gives India the ability to exert influence in the seas by being present at many faraway places continuously, the people said.

Representatives for the ministry of defense and Indian Navy declined to comment.

The Indian Ocean is already heavily militarized with as many as 125 naval vessels, including those from the US, France and Japan, roaming its waters any given time, roughly three times the number of vessels deployed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when the Washington invaded Kabul. The waters off India haven’t seen such intense competition since World War II as both China and the US and its allies deploy more warships in the area. That’s forcing the South Asian nation to also raise its game.

India plans to have 160 warships by 2030 and 175 by 2035 at an estimated cost of 2 trillion rupees, according to people familiar. More than 60 vessels of the Indian Navy are currently at various stages of construction, they added. The country is carrying out more warship patrols than ever before amid growing concerns over China’s rising naval prowess.

India has also upgraded the runway facilities at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands allowing the aircrafts to land at night, the people said. That’s a bid to keep a tighter watch over the narrow water straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok in the southern Indian Ocean. The island chain is used by India and its partners for maritime surveillance.

By Sudhi Ranjan Sen © 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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