India Set to Acquire a Rs.400 Billion Aircraft Carrier for Rafale Jets: Report
India Set to Acquire a Rs.400 Billion Aircraft Carrier for Rafale Jets: Report

In a strategic move aimed at bolstering its naval capabilities, India is poised to introduce a new aircraft carrier worth nearly ₹400 billion ($4.8 billion). This acquisition, intended to counter China's expanding naval influence in the Indian Ocean region, will house French Rafale jets, insiders revealed.

Expected to be approved by the Defense Acquisition Council, headed by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, this forthcoming carrier marks India's second indigenous addition to its fleet. With the capacity to accommodate a minimum of 28 fighter jets and helicopters, boasting a displacement of 45,000 tons, this carrier will significantly enhance India's maritime prowess, the undisclosed sources disclosed.

The debut of this carrier, set to operate the advanced French Rafale jets, follows the induction of India's first domestically produced carrier, INS Vikrant, which entered service last year, crafted by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. India also maintains an aircraft carrier procured from Russia.

This new addition is slated to form part of a three-carrier battle group, showcasing India's naval strength in the Indian Ocean. This move arrives at a critical juncture as China's People's Liberation Army Navy—the world's largest navy, comprising 370 ships and submarines—continues to assert its presence in the region. Augmenting the fleet not only fortifies India's influence across distant seas but also reinforces its naval standing, insiders emphasized.

Despite reaching out for comments, representatives from the Ministry of Defense and the Indian Navy declined to offer any insights.

The Indian Ocean, already a heavily militarized zone, witnesses the concurrent presence of about 125 naval vessels, including those from the US, France, and Japan—a figure nearly triple the deployment seen post the September 11 attacks when the US entered Kabul. This surge in naval presence reflects a level of maritime activity in these waters unprecedented since World War II, driven by China's and the US's escalated naval operations. Consequently, India is compelled to elevate its naval capabilities in response.

India is ambitiously aiming to expand its fleet with plans to acquire 160 warships by 2030 and further reaching 175 by 2035, estimated to cost around ₹2 trillion. More than 60 Indian Navy vessels are currently undergoing various stages of construction, insiders revealed. This escalated naval buildup is propelled by mounting concerns regarding China's burgeoning naval strength.

Furthermore, India has upgraded runway facilities on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, enabling night landings for aircraft—a strategic move aimed at enhancing surveillance over crucial water passages such as the Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok straits in the southern Indian Ocean. These islands serve as a key location for India and its allies in conducting maritime surveillance operations.

The move underscores India's proactive measures to fortify its naval capabilities in response to evolving regional dynamics, particularly in light of China's expanding naval footprint in the Indian Ocean.

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