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5 septembre 2013 4 05 /09 /septembre /2013 11:35
INS Vikrant built by Cochin Shipyard Limited

INS Vikrant built by Cochin Shipyard Limited

05 September 2013 Vivek Kapur – Pacific Sentinel


The first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, was launched on August 12, 2013. While still several years from being operational, the launch of the carrier, which has been designed to carry 36 fixed wing fighter aircrafts, comprising a mix of MiG-29K and the indigenous LCA (naval variants) in addition to Ka-31 AEW and ALH helicopters, will provide air cover to Indian Navy (IN) vessels. The launching of the hull of INS Vikrant with the power plant and generators integrated is the first step in the further development of the ship, particularly the weapon systems. This work is likely to consume the better part of two years before the ship can join the operational fleet. Only the UK, the US, France, and Russia have demonstrated the ability to design and build such ships. Reportedly, the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) is under design already.
One particular feature of the aircraft carrier is that it does not plan to utilise steam catapults, like the US super carriers, for the launch of the fixed wing aircraft. Instead, the bow of the ship sports a ski-jump configuration, in which the aircraft rolling down the very short available runway on take off is lofted into the air like a skier.1 This will impose limitations on the type of aircraft operable. The IAC-2 is likely to have catapults for aircraft launch.
The importance of air power at sea can not be overstated especially since the Battle of Coral Sea (May 4–8, 1942), in which two opposing fleets fought a major sea battle through the use of aircrafts launched from their carriers. Replacement of the battleship of yore with aircraft carriers, as the new capital ship, has been a strategic choice for the navies of the world since then.


INS Viraat, currently the sole Indian aircraft carrier, operates British-made Sea Harrier2 fighters in addition to helicopters of various types. INS Vikrant’s MiG-29K fighters are modern fourth generation fighters that will provide the IN with state-of-the-art air defence capability through the use of advanced Beyond Visual Range (BVR) as well as Within Visual Range (WVR) missiles backed by advanced airborne radar and Infra-red search and Track (IRST) systems and excellent agility. The MiG-29K also has an anti-ship and anti-land target strike capability, which would help in vastly increasing the reach, safety and lethality of the fleets at sea.
CGI of INS Vikrant operational (File Photo)
The IN has fielded an aircraft carrier since 1961.3 The original INS Vikrant served from 1961 to 1997.4 Aspiring to field at least two carrier battle groups (CBGs), one each for the western and eastern seaboards, the IN negotiated for induction of the erstwhile Soviet carrier, the deactivated Admiral Gorshkov, while also commencing to design an indigenous aircraft carrier. The contract for its transfer of Admiral Gorshkov involved extensive refurbishment by Russia. The refurbishment has faced extensive delays and cost escalations, though the vessel is reportedly now nearing readiness.
The progress in the development of INS Vikrant indicates that India’s shipbuilding capabilities are maturing towards self-reliance in design and development of high-end naval vessels. At the higher end of naval equipment, the aircraft carrier and nuclear powered submarine are complex. By 2020, INS Vikrant should be ready for operational deployment and could be reasonably be expected to be joined in a few years by its sister ships that may include further refinements over the original design. Both INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant are expected to carry MiG-29K fighters, sourced from Russia, to be joined later by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) Tejas (naval variant).
By the 2030s, the IN should be able to field three CBGs giving it the capability to protect India’s interests at locations far removed from the coast. The increasingly “designed and made in India” nature of the IN’s fleets should provide strategic and tactical flexibility through total ownership of critical technologies and capabilities. Air power afloat as an integral part of the Indian naval fleets should provide these vessels assured air defence and fire power against surface targets at sea and on land.
The IN has long aspired for a true blue water capability and the aircraft carrier project is a critical part of it. The IN has been involved in the project from the design stage onwards at the Cochin shipyard thus giving it total ownership. Also, the time and cost overruns in the indigenous aircraft carrier project are relatively minor. The Admiral Gorshkov’s refurbishment by Russian shipyards, with several decades of experience, stands as a comparison.5 The INS Vikrant is the lead ship of its class and future vessels of the same type, if built, should benefit from the from the construction process.
India has major maritime interests. These arise from the fact that most of India’s foreign trade is carried by sea. India’s energy imports also come by sea. Therefore, it is important for the country to be able to provide security along these sea lanes of communication (SLsOC). Moreover, with an expanding economy, India requires to be able to access raw materials sourced from other countries along the Indian Ocean rim as well as further away. Thus India must be able to freely access the SLsOC to these regions. The Indian Ocean hosts some of the most important SLOCs including the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca. In international waters it is critical to have capabilities to protect national assets, particularly the sea passage choke points.
Naval fleets have the ability to stay on station for long and carry considerable integral firepower. An aircraft carrier bolsters the potency of naval fleets by deploying fighter aircrafts that can apply long distance power from their carrier. Carriers can provide intelligence, reconnaissance and other essential support functions as well. A carrier battle group thus enhances the power projection capability of its fleet manifold.
The INS Vikrant signifies the coming of age of India’s ability to design and build major warships in the country and much to cheer for the indigenous defence industry. Moreover, it indicates that the IN is close to achieving capabilities to field forces at long distances in order to safeguard India’s maritime interests.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.
  1. The upwards momentum imparted to the aircraft as it leaves the deck is designed to compensate for the very short available runway and, therefore, sub-optimal achieved speed due to the short take off run. The short take off run would result in lower speed than required for take off. However, the ski jump lofts the aircraft upwards; the additional height so gained allows the aircraft to build up adequate speed for a safe climb out.
  2. The Sea Harrier is an excellent aircraft with vertical landing and take off capability. However, its unique design restricts its radius of action, especially in vertical take off mode. Moreover, it was designed in the late 1950s and 1960s. Hence, its design has imitations in performance compared with modern fighters of later design.
  3. India bought the under-construction HMS Herculese Majestic class aircraft carrier from UK in 1957. Upon its completion in 1961, it was commissioned into the IN as INS Vikrant.
  4. INS Vikrant, which had commenced being built in 1943 and was finally completed in 1961, came to be decommissioned in 1997. IN bought the ex-Royal Navy HMS Hermes and induced it as the INS Viraat to replace the first INS Vikrant. The Viraat also boasts a ski jump configuration and came equipped to operate the Sea Harrier fighters in addition to helicopters.
  5. Initially, the Admiral Gorshkov was to be given free to India with India paying $800 million for its refurbishment and another $1 billion for MiG-29 fighters and other equipment. The final cost is in the range of $2.33 billion. Initial entry into service date was to be October 2008 with delivery finally delayed to October 2013.


Originally published by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.in) and can be found HERE.
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28 mai 2013 2 28 /05 /mai /2013 16:35
Time for Airpower Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific

May 28, 2013 By Peter N. Shinn, Capt., USAF, Peter A. Garretson, Lt. Col., USAF, and Dr. Adam Lowther, Research Professor, Air Force Research Institute


The U.S. Air Force should use airpower development teams to build relations in the regions.


With the Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Pacific Command, and the services scaling back and cutting outreach and engagement efforts as they try to protect core missions in the wake of sequestration, now may be the time for the Air Force to look east and boldly undertake an expanded airpower diplomacy effort in the region. While some may suggest that the Air Force should hunker down and preserve its “core missions,” it is in tough times like these that the best solution is to innovate—not retrench. Continuing to focus on the Asia-Pacific, as the Obama administration is committed to doing, should provide the Air Force an opportunity to zero in on what matters most for the service to effectively accomplish its missions across the region.


What is becoming increasingly clear for many within the Air Force, and perhaps the other services, is that the types of alliances and defense agreements that marked the post-World War II American approach to Europe will not work for the Asia-Pacific. While many countries in the region see the United States as a source of stability and the U.S. military as a reliable partner, culture, history, and domestic populations are unlikely to support an American defense posture in the region that antagonizes China. Thus, American airmen are now seeking to highlight airpower diplomacy and its associated capabilities as a way to overcome the reticence that is often palpable in many Asian capitals. While many of these soft power capabilities are nothing new, they have often received too little recognition because, admittedly, they are the least “sexy” missions the USAF performs and do not offer a clear counter to a rising China.


However, it is through airpower diplomacy that the U.S. Air Force will, in many cases, advance American interests in the Asia-Pacific, build new relationships with potential partners, and strengthen enduring friendships and alliances. As any student of effects-based operations understands, achieving American objectives does not always call for the defeat of an adversary. Sometimes diplomacy will do the trick.


With that in mind, we argue that the USAF should borrow from the Army National Guard’s experience in Afghanistan in devising a strategy for using airpower diplomacy to achieve its objectives in the Asia-Pacific.


Strategic Guidance


The new Department of Defense strategic guidance, published in January 2012, calls for American forces “to build the capacity and competence of U.S., allied and partner forces for internal and external defense” while also acknowledging that “a reduction in resources will require innovative and creative solutions” to accomplish this task.  As the U.S. seeks to become the global “security partner of choice,” it faces an increasingly constrained fiscal environment in Asia and around the globe. Thus, the 2012 strategic guidance highlights the critical importance of developing “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives” (Emphasis in original). From the U.S. Air Force point of view, a key role in the Internal Defense and Development (IDAD) mission in Asia is Aviation Enterprise Development (AED), which is defined, in part, as “infrastructure development that considers the civilian aviation sector and the military/security aviation sector of a nation as mutually supportive systems of an integrated air domain in developing nations.”


The “Total Force” as Example


As the U.S. Air Force’s leadership formulates a vision and strategy for Aviation Enterprise Development—called for in the U.S. Air Force Irregular Warfare Roadmap—the realities of Asia’s military and political dynamics will force leadership to confront the challenges that are certain to arise in attempting to meet requirement for IDAD partner-nation capacity building. Currently, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is establishing the capacity to train and advise partner-nation aviation units to accomplish the IDAD mission for the Asia-Pacific and globally. However, a “total force” solution should include the National Guard and Reserve components, which provides a tremendous reserve of latent aviation expertise. Indeed, this pool of talent could be mobilized for partner aviation-enterprise development by adapting an already existing and highly effective model: the National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Teams (ADTs).


The National Guard initially developed the ADT concept to respond to capacity building and agriculture development needs in Central America during the late 1980s. It later adapted the concept and employed the first ADT to Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in February 2008.  An ADT from the Texas National Guard arrived in Ghazni province shortly thereafter and have continued to be deployed to the country ever since. With Afghanistan still an agrarian economy, the goal of deployed ADTs is the "revitalization of the agribusiness sector” through the “immediate agricultural expertise” of ADT members gained through their civilian careers. Translating this model from agriculture to airpower is a natural fit and the developing aviation sectors of American friends and partners in Asia is an equally appropriate place to focus such airpower diplomacy.


National Guardsmen selected for duty with an ADT are expected to have expertise in one or more agricultural specialties, such as "traditional farming, horticulture, pest management, irrigation, animal husbandry, [or] food processing…” Moreover, ADTs were partnered with land grant colleges and universities from their home state, providing each ADT with reach-back capability to address challenging agricultural issues. Appropriate skills and reach back also exist within the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.    


The model proved so successful in positively impacting the critical economic center of gravity in Afghanistan that Missouri and Texas continued to rotate new teams into their respective provincial areas of operation, with Missouri ultimately deploying six consecutive ADTs. At least 14 other states sent ADTs to Afghanistan between 2008 and 2013, with as many as nine different ADTs operating in Afghanistan at a time in 2010 and 2011.


As a means of improving the U.S. Air Force’s engagement capacity across the Asia-Pacific, asking the National Guard Bureau to expand the ADT model to create Aviation Enterprise Development Teams (AEDTs) is worth examining. If created, AEDTs would be a Joint Army/Air National Guard effort that could leverage the civilian skills of guardsmen and reservists to impact a key economic center of gravity for Asian nations. Not only could the Air Force expand its airpower diplomacy activities across the region, but it could focus on Asia-Pacific nations that it does not have an existing relationship with through the National Guard State Partnership Program..The aim in this case would be to provide unique capacity-building capabilities to combatant commanders as authorized under Title 10 of the U.S. Code.


Given the wealth of both military and civilian aviation expertise embedded throughout the Guard and Reserve, it is uniquely suited to accomplish the vital, yet atypical, AEDT mission. Experience shows Agricultural Development Teams provide battle-space owners a robust counterinsurgency and state legitimacy-enhancing tool while quantifiably improving local conditions and governance. AEDTs would accomplish similar tasks while providing the immediate ways and means of accomplishing the desired ends described in the latest USAF Global Partnership Strategy.


Undoubtedly, aviation enterprise development is complex. However, the reach-back resources of AEDTs would include not only institutions of higher learning, but also federal and state security and law enforcement that operate light aviation, such as the Civil Air Patrol, Federal Aviation Administration, and Department of Homeland Security. AEDTs would also likely have relationships with the Department of Commerce, development organizations, and aviation educational institutions from their respective states. These extensive reach-back resources, in addition to the fixed-wing and rotary-wing expertise of AEDT members, would offer an enabling capability to address the undoubtedly thorny aviation infrastructure issues faced by many of the Asia-Pacific’s developing nations.


In a rapidly changing geostrategic environment, the U.S. defense guidance has put a premium on the importance of building cooperative security relationships with Asian partners. This concept, which is at the heart of the USAF Global Partnership Strategy, could be powerfully advanced with the creation of AEDTs. Broadening the AEDT concept to utilize the broad aviation enterprise expertise of the U.S. Air Force and, to a more limited degree, the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard, AEDTs have the potential to foster relationships between the U.S. and strategic Asia-Pacific partner-nations. In the end, enhancing the aviation capability and capacity of these nations in a manner that is cost effective for the United States may do more for furthering American interests in the region than the acquisition of a few more costly aircraft.

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