India gets new destroyer

With China now fielding the world’s largest Navy and fast constructing two more aircraft carriers to add to its two existing ones, the Indian Navy has finally got a long-delayed shot in the arm with a new indigenous guided-missile destroyer even as its second aircraft carrier undergoes another set of sea trials.

The first of the four 7,400-tonne stealth destroyers being constructed at Mazagon Docks, under a contract inked in January 2011, was delivered to the Navy on Thursday after a delay of well over three years. “She will be named INS Visakhapatnam on commissioning in the second half of November,” said an officer.

The other three destroyers, Mormugao, Imphal and Surat, will follow over the next few years.

The overall cost of the four warships, with an array of weapons and sensors including BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Israeli new-generation Barak surface-to-air missile systems, is over Rs 35,000 crore.

While destroyers are powerful warships, they are simply dwarfed by aircraft carriers in size as well as combat power. Capable of moving over 500 nautical miles in a single day, the floating airbases pack a formidable offensive punch and project raw military power like nothing else around the globe.

The US Navy has 11 “super” 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered carriers, each of which carries 80-90 fighters and aircraft. China, too, eventually wants to have 10 carriers as “symbols of a great nation”.

India, however, is making do with just one carrier in the secondhand 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya, inducted from Russia for $2.33 billion in November 2013.

Another $2 billion was spent on procuring 45 MiG-29Ks to operate from its deck. The second round of sea trials of the country’s first 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier, to be commissioned as INS Vikrant in August next year, was reviewed by shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Sunday.

China already operates two carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, and is fast building two more with CATOBAR (catapult assisted takeoff but arrested recovery) configuration to launch fighters as well as heavier aircraft for surveillance, early-warning and electronic warfare from its deck, like the US ones.

Both INS Vikramaditya and IAC, however, have only angled ski-jumps for fighters to take off under their own power in STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) operations.

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