On Indian Navy again. A knowledgeable source notes that the Vikrant-class carriers, starting with IAC-1, being built at the Hindustan Shipyard in Kochi, have a grievous design flaw that need immediate rectification, failing which they will be disabled from participating effectively in amphibious actions. Specifically, the carrier lacks the ability to support such operations. In contrast the INS Viraat (ex-HMS Hermes) has multiple davits (crane-like machines) that help host four LCVPs (landing vessels) and carry a complement of 750 Special Forces troops with equipment. The new Vikrant-class has no such capability. Other than as escort to provide air cover in expeditionary, or from-the-sea, kind of operations, they lack the multi-role capacity for different kind of seaborne missions. At a time when specialized, single mission, platforms are cost-prohibitive, there’s no option — even at this late date — than to suitably modify at least the follow-up carrier of the same class. Until that happens, the navy will have to consider if somehow keeping the Viraat operational for purely amphibious operations and as anti-submarine warfare ship, which twin tasks were the original remit of the Hermes, makes sense.
Then there’s the matter about the Viraat’s Sea Harrier air wing. Where and how will it be deployed? It perhaps could be shifted to the flagship, INS Vikramaditya. Additionally, the Vikrant-class of ACs could be modified to make it more lethal by having it carry large quantities of Cruise missiles, like the Brahmos or, better still, K-15/Shouryas in containers — an innovation the Russian Navy has already implemented. The question then becomes whether the carrier hull can take it, or will it need considerable strengthening. Cruise missile-arming will make the Indian-made carriers more versatile in an environment where one can expect a much larger, more potent, PLA Navy presence in the Indian Ocean in the years ahead.