New Delhi: For the first time since its commissioning in September 2022, Indian Navy’s indigenously built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant saw two fighter jets landing on its deck and taking off, on Monday – a major move for the giant boat to become fully operational. The two fighters that landed on the aircraft carrier were a naval prototype of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built light combat aircraft and a Russian-origin MiG-29K.
The Navy termed the maiden landings of the two fighters on the 45,000-tonne INS Vikrant’s deck as a “historic milestone”.
Although the LCA (Navy) is a prototype and will not be manufactured for Indian carriers, it is a technology demonstrator that sets the stage for the indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF), which is expected to roll out from early 2030s. Currently, the Navy operates with only 40 of the 45 MiG-29K fighters procured from Russia, five of which were lost due to accidents.
Last year, the Navy had said INS Vikrant would eventually operate with only TEDBFs. However, as an interim measure, it will procure either the F/A-18 Super Hornet from the United States’ Boeing or Rafale (M) from France’s Dassault Aviation.
Read also: Navy says decision soon on fighter planes
Both the Rafale (M) and the F/A-18 successfully underwent tests earlier this year at a shore-based facility in Goa where conditions like that on Vikrant were simulated. According to media reports published last December, the Rafale (M) was stated to have an edge over the F/A-18.
Indian Navy takes a significant step towards operationalising the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier by successful landing of MiG-29K on #INSVikrant by Naval Pilots demonstrating India's prowess in Aircraft Carrier design, construction, operations while enhancing Navy's Combat Readiness pic.twitter.com/IrrvwE5Gta— India Sentinels (@indiasentinels) February 6, 2023
It may be noted that the Navy has been pushing for a third aircraft carrier (IAC-2), which would be bigger than the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya (currently undergoing a long maintenance process) and the 45,000-tonne INS Vikrant. However, due to cash crunch, the Navy is mulling a repeat order of IAC-1 (INS Vikrant) to counter Chinese growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region coupled with a strengthening Pakistani navy.