India has recently inducted INS Vikrant, the South Asian nation's second aircraft carrier. This "indigenous" ship of the Indian Navy is powered by four American-made General Electric LM2500 marine gas turbines built in the US state of Ohio. It is a relatively small aircraft carrier with a displacement of 40,000 tons, top speed of 28 knots, cruise speed of 18 knots and 7,500 nautical miles (8,630 miles) range. INS Vikrant can carry up to 30 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft and 1600 sailors. India plans to equip it with Russian MiG-29K fighter jets and Westland Sea King helicopters, a British license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name. Does this latest addition to the Indian Navy pose a serious threat to Pakistan's security? Can Pakistan defend against it?
|Indian PM Modi Launched INS Vikrant Aircraft Carrier
In a 2017 paper for the US Naval War College Review, defense analyst Ben Wan Beng Ho discussed how India might use its aircraft carriers against Pakistan and how the latter would respond. Here are some key excerpts from it:
"(I)t is doubtful that any attack force launched from an Indian carrier would pack a significant punch. “With aircraft available for strike duties barely numbering into the double digits, the Indian carrier simply cannot deliver a substantial ‘pulse’ of combat power against its adversary.”
“In any attempt to impose sea control in the northern Arabian Sea and to interdict Pakistani seaborne commerce by enforcing a blockade of major Pakistani maritime nodes, Indian carrier forces would have to devote a portion of their already meager airpower to attacking Pakistani vessels, thereby exacerbating the conundrum alluded to earlier. What is more, Pakistani ships are likely to operate relatively close to their nation’s coast, to be protected by Islamabad’s considerable access-denial barrier.”
Indian-American defense analyst Ashley Tellis has also raised serious questions about the Indian naval doctrine. He believes that the land-based fighter aircraft with refueling to extend range are a better option. He also says that aircraft carriers are highly vulnerable to sinking by stealthy submarines.
There are lessons for the Indian military from Ukraine-Russia war. In April this year, Ukraine's Neptune anti-ship missiles hit and sank Moskva in Black Sea. It was a large 10,000-ton guided missile cruiser of the Russian Navy that was launching cruise missiles on targets in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. It is the largest warship to have been sunk in action since WWII.
Pakistan has recently showcased its anti-ship missile Harbah at DIMDEX 2022, a defense expo in Qatar. It is a medium range ship launched subsonic cruise missile system capable of targeting sea as well as land targets in “all weather operation” at a maximum range of 280 kilometers, according to a report in NavalNews. The missile is fire and forget type. It relies on inertial navigation technologies with GPS and GLONASS systems. According to its manufacturer GIDS, the missile features the following guidance systems: a DSMAC camera, imaging infrared seeker, and radar seeker. More recently, Pakistan's ally China has successfully demonstrated its carrier-buster missile. A single round has to be slung underneath the fuselage. And its primary prey is likely to be enemy aircraft carriers. For this reason, it has been widely dubbed a ‘carrier killer’, according to Naval News.
In a YouTube video, Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta noted that the Indian Navy hid its aircraft carriers from Pakistan Navy submarines in both 1965 and 1971 wars. He also recalled that Pakistani Navy warships destroyed Indian Naval Base at Dwarka in 1965, and Pakistani sub Hangor sank an Indian warship INS Khukri in 1971 war.
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