India Outdoes China With TWO-Carrier Photo Op
New Delhi shows off refurbished Russian flattop
A few days ago we posted the first photos of China’s sole aircraft carrier battle group, built around the refurbished Ukrainian flattop Liaoning. The admittedly impressive photos include important hints of the Chinese Navy’s limitations, including a lack of support ships.
Not to be outdone by Beijing’s dramatic display, on Jan. 5 the Indian Navy released carefully staged snapshots of its own “new” carrier INS Vikramaditya—a rebuilt Russian vessel measuring 284 meters from bow to stern and displacing 40,000 tons of water, making her somewhat smaller than Liaoning.
The photos depict Vikramaditya and her escorts on their way to Karwar on India’s western coast from Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia, where Vikramaditya was refurbished at a cost of more than $2 billion over a period of nine years.
Double the fun
Where Liaoning is China’s only flattop, India now possesses two: Vikramaditya plus the veteran carrier INS Viraat, a former British vessel of 1944 vintage that appears alongside Vikramaditya in the photo op.
The rest of the Indian carrier battle group is made up of the frigate INS Trikand, the destroyer INS Delhi, the fleet tanker INS Deepak and several other surface combatants of the Indian Western Fleet. Deepak’s presence is the most significant. Support ships—of which China possesses only a few—are the key to projecting naval power over long distance.
Vikramaditya is a Kiev-class carrier dating back to 1987. Named Baku in Soviet and Russian service, she decommissioned in 1996 and remained pier-side until her purchase by New Delhi.
Whereas Liaoning carries J-15 fighters that are arguably too heavy for a small flattop, Vikramaditya is expected to accommodate 30 smaller, more suitable MiG-29Ks. Russian MiG-29s conducted extensive testing on the refurbished carrier before she transferred to India.
Viraat carries Sea Harrier jump jets.
New Delhi is building a third carrier all on its own to replace the ancient Viraat. The new flattop could join the fleet as early as 2018. And of course, Beijing is also working on a home-made carrier.