The first sea trials of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant marks a proud milestone for India.
The new developments of INS Vikrant in the context of India becoming too dependent on INS Vikramaditya, especially as the country increases its participation in military exercises around the world, for example, the Indo-European Union exercise in June in the Gulf of Aden, the Varuna exercise with the French Navy in April, the trilateral exercise with Singapore and Thailand in November last year. On June 28, the Indian Navy also held a joint exercise with South Korea in the East China Sea, which is likened to China’s “backyard”.
Indeed, unlike China and even the former Soviet Union, India has long focused on aircraft carriers instead of submarines. India once had a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier, also named INS Vikrant, which served in the navy from 1961 to 1997 and fought effectively in the 1971 war with Pakistan. Meanwhile, INS Viraat, acquired from the UK, joined the Indian Navy in 1987 and served until 2016. These aircraft carriers have given the South Asian nation a considerable amount of experience in military operations involving aircraft carriers, as well as being a compelling reason why New Delhi decided to stay maintain the appearance of aircraft carriers in the navy.
On the other hand, China has commissioned its second largest aircraft carrier and is building a third, thereby surpassing India in naval aviation in a relatively short period of time. Although less experienced than India in operating aircraft carriers, China has a very efficient shipbuilding industry, an increasingly modern aviation force, and is less dependent on foreign technology. These reasons force New Delhi to speed up the completion of aircraft carrier projects, along with strengthening its navy, if it wants to continue to maintain its influence and protect its sovereignty and national interests at sea.
Both the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea are increasingly becoming contentious and regions of power posturing, contest and conflict. The US has launched a massive naval and amphibious military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region along with the UK, Australia, and Japan.
Most recently, the US Navy successfully tested and validated the systems integration and the missile’s propulsion system of the new AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range. This Air Force-Navy technological coordination will enhance the US Navy’s capabilities to meet surface-to-air threats, especially in the South China Sea, where the US seeks to challenge China’s intrusions and claims.
There is no doubt that India has come a long way to become a Blue Navy. INS Vikrant’s maiden sea trial marks a major step forward for “Made in India”, and promises to reinvigorate the government’s stimulus programmes. And very soon, as INS Vikrant will provide a new deterrent for the Indian Navy to effectively deal with challenges and competition in the Indo-Pacific, present and future.