Vishal to be Nu­clear Pow­ered?

The United States and In­dia have agreed to form a work­ing group to ex­plore the joint de­vel­op­ment of In­dia’s next-gen­er­a­tion air­craft car­rier.

SP's NavalForces - - FRONT PAGE - Rear Ad­mi­ral Sushil Ram­say (Retd)

ON JUNE 4, 2015, In­dia and the United States signed a new strate­gi­cally im­por­tant 10-year de­fence frame­work pact which en­vis­aged joint de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­ture of de­fence equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy in­clud­ing jet en­gines, air­craft car­rier de­sign and con­struc­tion.

Dur­ing the re­cently con­cluded visit to In­dia of Ash­ton Carter, US De­fense Sec­re­tary, In­dia and the US also fi­nalised two pro­ject agree­ments for high-tech mo­bile power source and next-gen­er­a­tion pro­tec­tive suits for chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare.

The foun­da­tion of the re­cently con­cluded frame­work agree­ment was ac­tu­ally laid dur­ing the par­leys be­tween Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi dur­ing the for­mer’s visit to In­dia as the chief guest at the Re­pub­lic Day pa­rade on Jan­uary 26, 2015. The oneon-one dis­cus­sions be­tween the two had mainly fo­cused on is­sues rang­ing from mar­itime se­cu­rity and joint train­ing.

To­wards cul­mi­na­tion of the ef­forts, De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar and the vis­it­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter signed the 2015 frame­work for the In­dia-US De­fence Re­la­tion­ship on June 4, 2015. The long-term agree­ment is the con­sol­i­da­tion and the up­grade of the pre­vi­ous frame­work and suc­cesses to guide the bi­lat­eral de­fence and strate­gic part­ner­ship for the next decade.

The salient fea­tures of the new frame­work agree­ment pro­vides for ad­di­tional av­enues for high level strate­gic dis­cus­sions, con­tin­ued ex­changes be­tween the armed forces of both coun­tries, and strength­en­ing of de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The frame­work also en­com­passes ex­pe­dit­ing dis­cus­sions to take for­ward co­op­er­a­tion on jet en­gines, air­craft car­rier de­sign and con­struc­tion, and other ar­eas, as also recog­nises the trans­for­ma­tive na­ture of the De­fence Tech­nol­ogy and Trade Ini­tia­tive (DTTI). The two sides have also agreed to pur­sue co-de­vel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion projects that will of­fer tan­gi­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can de­fence in­dus­tries to build part­ner­ship with the In­dian in­dus­tries in­clud­ing in man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der ‘Make in In­dia’.

In­dia’s Next-Gen­er­a­tion Air­craft Car­rier

View­ing from the per­spec­tive of fur­ther aug­ment­ing and con­sol­i­dat­ing the Mar­itime Ca­pa­bil­ity Per­spec­tive Plans the frame­work agree­ment pro­vides for new di­men­sion which can re­ju­ve­nate the force de­vel­op­ment plan for the In­dian Navy to the un­prece­dented heights. The US and In­dia have agreed to form a work­ing group to ex­plore the joint de­vel­op­ment of In­dia’s next-gen­er­a­tion air­craft car­rier. While the In­dian Navy has al­ready be­gun de­sign work, wide-rang­ing co­op­er­a­tion with the US has enor­mous po­ten­tial and of­fers In­dia the op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire the most ca­pa­ble war­ship pos­si­ble. Set­ting the prepara­tory frame­work in place Ash­ley J. Tel­lis, a se­nior as­so­ciate at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, in an ar­ti­cle of April 22, 2015, stated, “Such col­lab­o­ra­tion would in­crease the In­dian Navy’s com­bat power and would res­onate through­out the Asian con­ti­nent to In­dia’s strate­gic ad­van­tage. The most valu­able con­tri­bu­tions are likely to ma­te­ri­alise in the fight, pos­si­bly in the move, and hope­fully in the in­te­grate func­tions. He fur­ther ar­tic­u­lated the fol­low­ing tenets which could be used for mean­ing­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two coun­tries:

Bring­ing Co­op­er­a­tion into Fo­cus

The prospect of a ma­jor Chi­nese naval pres­ence in the In­dian Ocean trans­forms In­dia’s hitherto se­cure rear into a spring­board from which co­er­cive power can be brought to bear against the In­dian land­mass.

The prin­ci­pal ob­jec­tive un­der­ly­ing bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion should be to en­sure that In­dia’s next-gen­er­a­tion air- craft car­rier to in­clude its air wing and its ca­pac­ity for com­bat oper­a­tions will be su­pe­rior to its Chi­nese coun­ter­parts. Though co­op­er­a­tion on the fight, move and in­te­grate func­tions is likely to be most in­dis­pens­able and re­ward­ing, joint de­vel­op­ment should in prin­ci­ple span all the mis­sion ar­eas in­volved in car­rier de­sign. Above all else, the In­dian Navy should not suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion to make col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment merely an ex­er­cise in procur­ing tech­nol­ogy.

The Fight Func­tion

Ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of equip­ping In­dia’s car­rier with the Elec­tro-Mag­netic Air­craft Launch Sys­tem (EMALS). Of­fer In­dia ac­cess to var­i­ous ad­vanced avi­a­tion sys­tems, such as the US Navy’s E-2C/D Hawk­eye for air­borne early warn­ing and bat­tle man­age­ment and the fifth-gen­er­a­tion F-35C light­ning strike fighter, so as to per­mit the In­dian Navy to se­cure a com­bat ad­van­tage over its ri­vals’ air wings.

The Move Func­tion

Con­sider changes to cur­rent US pol­icy to al­low for dis­cus­sions about nu­clear propul- sion tech­nol­ogy in or­der to, among other things, make the in­te­gra­tion of EMALS tech­nol­ogy a vi­able op­tion for In­dia’s nextgen­er­a­tion car­rier.

The In­te­grate Func­tion Sup­port a part­ner­ship be­tween the In­dian Navy and the US Naval Sea Sys­tems Com­mand, and US pri­vate in­dus­try as ap­pro­pri­ate, to val­i­date the ves­sel’s en­gi­neer­ing and pro­duc­tion de­signs, im­bibe best prac­tices from the US ex­pe­ri­ence when con­struct­ing the car­rier, and co­or­di­nate on sea tri­als prior to com­mis­sion­ing the ship.

En­cour­age the con­clu­sion of con­sult­ing con­tracts and mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing be­tween In­dian ship­yards and US in­dus­try to as­sist In­dia in in­cor­po­rat­ing ad­vanced con­struc­tion tech­niques when build­ing its new large-deck car­ri­ers.

EMALS Un­der de­vel­op­ment for over 25 years and man­u­fac­tured by Gen­eral Atomics, EMALS is the first new car­rier cat­a­pult tech­nol­ogy in 60 years. In­stead of us­ing a pis­ton forced along by a head of steam, EMALS uses com­puter-con­trolled, solid-state elec- tric cur­rent to pro­pel an ar­ma­ture down a track. EMALS has been de­signed to re­place the steam-pow­ered launch sys­tem that has been the stan­dard on air­craft car­ri­ers since the 1950s. EMALS is ca­pa­ble of launch­ing a wide va­ri­ety of air­craft, is near-silent, and en­joys smoother ac­cel­er­a­tion and a more con­sis­tent launch speed. It also has higher launch energy, is more re­li­able, me­chan­i­cally sim­pler, and is eas­ier to main­tain.

EMALS has al­ready been tested in the first phase of ACT test­ing that ended in 2011 and in­cluded 134 manned launches of air­craft, in­clud­ing the F/A-18E Su­per Hor­net, T-45C Goshawk, C-2A Grey­hound, E-2D Ad­vanced Hawk­eye and F-35C Light­ning II. The sec­ond phase saw launches of the EA-18G Growler and F/A-18C Hor­net. Re­cently on June 22, 2015, for the first time in­stalled EMALS suc­cess­fully car­ried out an un­manned dead weight sled from un­der con­struc­tion su­per air­craft car­rier, USS Gerald Ford. The dead weight landed about a hun­dred me­tres from the bow of the ship un­der con­struc­tion.

Con­clu­sion

Fac­tor­ing the ex­ten­sive de­lib­er­a­tions, con­sul­ta­tions, eval­u­a­tions, etc. the US and In­dia have now agreed to form a work­ing group to ex­plore the joint de­vel­op­ment of In­dia’s next-gen­er­a­tion air­craft car­rier. Such col­lab­o­ra­tion would in­crease the IN’s com­bat power and would res­onate through­out the Asian con­ti­nent to In­dia’s strate­gic ad­van­tage.

Emerg­ing re­ports sug­gest that In­dia’s big­gest ever war­ship, the In­dige­nous Air­craft Car­rier II ( IAC-II) to be chris­tened as INS Vishal, is likely to be pro­pelled by nu­clear energy. Spec­u­la­tions are rife that the home grown IAC-II based on US tech­nol­ogy for joint de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion could be 65,000 tonnes to ac­com­mo­date an air wing of 50 air­craft. In con­trast INS Vikra­ma­ditya, which was re­fur­bished, mod­ernised and weighs 45,000 tonnes, car­ries 34 air­craft on board.

Emerg­ing re­ports also sug­gest that the Min­istry of De­fence has al­ready be­gun the de­tailed sur­vey of the ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity of In­dian ship­yards both in public and pri­vate sec­tors which can be as­signed the man­u­fac­tur­ing of su­per air­craft car­rier.

A nu­clear pow­ered air­craft car­rier costs up to three times more than its con­ven­tional vari­ant. While the type of fighter jets which will be based on the new car­rier is yet to be de­cided, se­lec­tion of nu­clear power propul­sion for 65,000 tonnes car­rier of­fers flex­i­bil­ity for in­duc­tion of heav­ier fixed-wing twin-en­gine air­craft in the air wing. In­dia is keep­ing a watch­ful eye on the de­vel­op­ment of EMALS in the US. With nu­clear power propul­sion sys­tem, EMALS will be a nat­u­ral choice for faster sor­tie gen­er­a­tion rates and ef­fi­cient launches from the deck of Vishal. Ad­di­tional ad­van­tage that can ac­crue by elect­ing EMALS for Vishal that the car­rier would be ca­pa­ble of em­bark­ing an air wing of 50 heav­ier fighter jets with longer range as well as air­borne early warn­ing air­craft. Vishal could truly emerge as an in­stru­ment of power pro­jec­tion and ca­pa­ble of com­bat oper­a­tions at ex­tended ranges.

In­dia is keep­ing a watch­ful eye on the de­vel­op­ment of EMALS in the US. With nu­clear power propul­sion sys­tem, EMALS will be a nat­u­ral choice for faster sor­tie gen­er­a­tion rates and ef­fi­cient launches from the deck of Vishal.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: In­dian Navy

INS Vikra­ma­ditya

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