New Delhi: Indian defence minister, AK Antony, has publicly confirmed that the Indian Navy is slated to induct a third aircraft carrier by 2017. The ship would be in addition to the INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov) and the so far unnamed indigenous Air Defence Ship (ADS) currently under construction at the Kochi shipyard.
According to the minister, the order for a third carrier will be placed only after construction of the ADS progresses "beyond a certain range". The third carrier will also be built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd, who are now constructing the ADS.
"Induction of the third aircraft carrier is envisaged by 2017. At present, Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Kochi, is the only yard in the country that possesses the capability to undertake construction of such a ship," Antony said in a statement to the Rajya Sabha. The defence minister was elaborating on the "action taken" on the recommendations of a parliamentary panel on defence.
Indian Navy's force projections for the future have long envisaged the operation of three aircraft carrier groups as being essential for the protection of India's maritime interests. The defence minister has for the first time now also provided a timeframe for the induction of the third carrier.
The Navy will get a refitted and reconfigured INS Vikramaditya, with a compliment of 18 MiG 29K aircraft by 2010. The indigenously designed and built ADS is scheduled to follow by 2014. In between, India's sole aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, is scheduled for decommissioning in 2012.
According to naval sources, the order for the second indigenously built carrier is likely to be placed only around 2010, after the ADS has been launched from the Cochin Shipyard. These sources said that the order for the second carrier could be placed once the ADS was launched from the shipyard for further fittings.
If matters proceed as per plan, the Indian Navy will operate three aircraft carriers for the first time with the induction of a second indigenously built ship, and its third carrier, by 2017. This would ensure the Navy has two operational carriers at any given point with the third one in for refits.