Next aircraft carrier might also be a small one, says Admiral Kumar

Calling the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, IAC-1, on September 2 “a seminal event in the history of the nation and the navy”, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R Hari Kumar, sprung a bombshell in his customary Navy Day-eve press conference with the observation that the second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), might be a copy of IAC-1, rather than the expansive aircraft carrier that had so far been expected.

INS Vikrant is a 40,000-tonne carrier that can embark about 35 aircraft, including helicopters. Successive navy chiefs have publicly stated that INS Vishal, the expected name for IAC-2, would be a 65,000-tonne carrier that would embark 55-60 aircraft.

“We are still working on what size IAC-2 should be and the capabilities that are desired. But, for now, we have put a hold on it because we have just commissioned the Vikrant and we are quite happy with the way the ship performed in the trials. A lot of expertise has been gained in building IAC-1. We are seriously looking at a repeat order for IAC-1 rather than building IAC-2. This would capitalise on the expertise available in the country and we could plough back into the economy,” stated the CNS.

Admiral Kumar said: “Vikrant’s commissioning was a manifestation of sustained efforts of generations of naval leadership – planners – designers – yard workers – industry partners – and numerous others. The ship will remain the torchbearer of Aatmanirbhar Bharat,inspiring our future generations towards self-reliance.

Indicating that the decision about IAC-2 was still to be taken, the CNS said: “All this is right now at the study stage, we have not yet firmed up our minds, nor have we taken this proposal to the government.”

Kumar said the deck-based fighter aircraft that would fly from the decks of IAC-1 and IAC-2 were still in the pipeline and would only materialise by about 2032.

He said there was currently a gap in the availability of deck-based fighter because the MiG-29Ks that the navy bought are small in number and no new fighter aircraft are forthcoming.

“There are two fighter aircraft that we feel are suitable: We have done trials of the marine version of the Rafale as well as the Boeing F/A-18 from the shore-based test facility (SBTF) in Goa. The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had brought the aircraft and done the trials and submitted the trial reports, which are under evaluation. Thereafter, we will take a call on what is in our best interest,” said Kumar.

Navy budget satisfaction

After several years of public complaints by navy chiefs about the falling budget of the navy, Kumar expressed satisfaction over the current year’s budgetary allocations.

“The navy’s share of the defence Budget this year was 17.8 per cent and, in using this judiciously, we have achieved a revenue-to-capital expenditure ratio of 32 : 68 per cent – which accords us flexibility in pursuing our capability developments plan,” he said.

In driving self-reliance and technology development, the Indian Navy is well established on a path of budget optimization, said Kumar.

Project 75-I

The navy chief did not appear optimistic about Project 75-I, the name given to the building of six new submarines, with “air independent propulsion” (AIP), which allows a submarine to stay submerged for as much as 10-14 days. This is a far greater endurance than the 24-48 hours that conventional diesel-electric submarines can remain under water.

“As far as Project 75-I is concerned, it is a complex [acquisition] process: The strategic partnership model. It’s a new way of developing indigenous capability in our private industry. So there have been a lot of challenges and there has been a little bit of delay,” said Kumar.

He explained that both the foreign technology partner, as well as the Indian Strategic Partner (SP), have to understand their roles and responsibilities clearly.

“The IAC (Indian Applicant Company) as well as the OEMs who are joining up with them, their apprehensions have to be addressed. It’s a new area for the people involved in procurement. The companies had a number of queries. Those queries are being addressed and we are hopeful of going forward in a few months,” said the CNS.


Kumar said that the navy was going ahead with implementing the “transformational change” that would come through Agnipath – the new short-service recruitment model that is being implemented in the army, navy and air force in order to reduce pension budgets.

“Implementation of Agnipathhas been a much needed transformational change. We have already inducted our first batch of Agniveers– comprising 3,000 recruits who are currently undergoing training at our training base – INS Chilka. Importantly, this batch of Agniveersincludes 341 women trainees – once again – a transformational step,” said the CNS.

While the navy already has women officers posted in frontline units, the Agnipath scheme will ensure they are soon going to be joined by women in all ranks.


Asked about the implementation of the scheme to transform 17 single-service theatres to about 4-6 tri-service theatres, the navy chief said this is “something that will take a finite amount of time.”

He said that studies had been ordered earlier on the transformation of the three services into tri-service theatre commands.

“All those studies have been done and submitted. Then we had the unfortunate demise of [former CDS] General Bipin Rawat. But now sessions are being conducted with the services on the basic principles of theaterisation and on how we go forward. So work is on and we are hopeful of seeing progress in the months ahead.

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