On June 17, China launched its newest, most advanced, and completely self-built aircraft carrier, the Fujian. More than a month later, on July 28, the Indian Navy commissioned its first domestic aircraft carrier, the Vikrant.
While American newspapers, such as CNN or New York Post, Japan, such as Nikkei, emphasize the “most advanced” details of the Fujian, while Indian newspapers, such as Indian Express or Wionews, note the “localization” of the Vikrant. Similarly, the Chinese press, typically the Global Times, has also repeatedly published articles highlighting the “localization” of the new aircraft carrier.
Just two days after the Vikrant was handed over to the Indian Navy, the Global Times immediately commented: “After more than a decade of construction, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, was handed over to the Indian navy by Cochin shipyard on Thursday.” Chinese experts say that although there is still a big gap between the Vikrant and China’s third aircraft carrier, India’s long and arduous road to the production of the Vikrant aircraft carrier shows New Delhi’s ambition and determination to become a maritime power.
Accordingly, Vikrant has a length of 262m, a full load displacement of nearly 45,000 tons and a maximum speed of 28 knots. Meanwhile, the Chinese press said that the Fujian is superior in every way: “it has a displacement of nearly 80,000 tons, and is the first Chinese aircraft carrier to be equipped with a CATOBAR system and electromagnetic catapults., significantly closing the technological gap with US aircraft carriers”.
Arguably, what is motivating China and India to move forward on the path of developing aircraft carriers is not just military superiority. The people of China and India have longed for aircraft carriers for decades, and the two countries’ domestic aircraft carrier programs have been halted many times. The achievement of developing aircraft carriers of the two countries today is a hard-won victory.
No super carrier can be born without the comprehensive strength of the whole nation. Basically, only countries with a superior power can own a super aircraft carrier, which is currently only the US and China, then France, India, and even military superpowers like Russia also there are no more.
In the article “U.S. Navy, China And France’s Future Aircraft Carriers Compared” in Naval News, the Chinese aircraft carrier has been compared with other naval powers: “only a few countries can build what we’d term super-carriers. A term coined to describe the U.S. Navy’s Cold War giants, there is no clear definition what it means. Until now the large aircraft carriers of other navies have always fallen short. The latest designs from China and France are worthy of the term.”
Only 3 nations are going for the most impressive category of aircraft carrier, so-called super carriers. These are the United States, China, and France. Other countries also operate carriers, notably Britain, India, Italy, Spain and Russia. But these are smaller or less capable in some respect. There is no clear definition of a super carrier, but these share key characteristics. They are the largest, can operate larger aircraft (such as airborne early warning planes), and their air wings rival most air forces.
The class of “supercarrier” is due not only to the displacement but also to “Decades of hard-earned experience in super-carrier operations went into the design”. In this view, the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, is showing China’s growing level of experience and confidence in carrier operations. The latest Type-003 Fujian is also the “closest” to the US Navy, slightly shorter, but similar in size. Of course, it did not match the Gerald Ford aircraft carrier because it only had two elevators instead of three of the American ships: the number of planes that could be launched would therefore be less.
The Indian Navy’s Vikrant, the Indian navy said the ship’s commissioning was “a momentous day in the history of the country’s navy and the domestic shipbuilding industry”. At a cost of nearly $2.9 billion, the Vikrant is expected to use MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31 helicopters, and MH-60R multirole helicopters, with a crew of about 1,700 people. The Indian Navy says Vikrant will greatly increase its operational range in the Indian Ocean waters. Indian Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Karambir Singh said the Vikrant will be fully operational before the end of 2022, when its anti-submarine, combat and nuclear warfighting capabilities have been fully tested.
According to military experts, INS Vikrant will help India increase its presence, show greater power in the Indian Ocean, and become a tool to deal with any threat in a crisis situation. The Indian Navy is also planning to build a third aircraft carrier, because Vikramaditya is too degraded and outdated. The only problem is the cost.