India thinks of itself as an emerging superpower but does not have a single operational aircraft carrier as of now. Its solitary aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya , will be ready for action only after eight months due its ongoing maintenance refit.
More alarmingly, the 44,570-tonne INS Vikramaditya will in all probability have to soldier on alone for the next six-seven years. In its report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the CAG said the already long-delayed 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant , will be ready only by 2023 as per its constructor Cochin Shipyard .
Nothing projects raw combat power like an aircraft carrier prowling on the high seas, ready to unleash its fighter jets and missiles against any adversary. So, whenever the US launches a military strike, or flies the flag against a belligerent China in the South China Sea , it turns to its 10 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered “super-carriers” deployed around the globe. China, too, visualizes aircraft carriers as “symbols of a great nation”.
India, however, continues to flounder in first formulating and then executing long term strategic plans in tune with its geopolitical aspirations. The Navy for long has been demanding three aircraft carriers, one each for the western and eastern sea-boards, with the third being under refit at any given time. But the CAG report, with a detailed critique of the shoddy planning and project execution in INS Vikrant’s construction, junks the notion of even a two-carrier force till 2023.
Moreover, the report says the MiG-29K fleet – India ordered 45 fighters from Russia for $2 billion for INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant – is “riddled with problems” due to defects in the fighter air frames, RD-33 MK engines and fly-by-wire systems. Consequently, the serviceability or operational availability of MiG-29Ks is pathetic – ranging from just 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent.