The United Kingdom likely to offer Second design of Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to India
The United Kingdom and India are reportedly working on possible collaboration in design and development of aircraft carrier based on Elizabeth class aircraft carriers operated by Royal Navy according to media reports.
But the Indian Navy is firm about one thing that it wants a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) for its New Aircraft carrier which will require considerable design changes to the deck section.The Queen Elizabeth Class carrier was originally designed to support CATOBAR. This was only changed late in development because it was going to use experimental Magnetic Catapults that the UK and US are developing, but the costs were becoming greater and greater so the UK opted to go STOVL and convert to CATOBAR in the future if needed.
The Royal Navy’s carriers are built to accommodate Short-Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) type aircraft that don’t need catapults or arresting gear at all.
STOBAR configuration of INS Vishal will drop the full-width ski-jump feature so that it can operate AEW aircraft and UCAVs from onboard. Use of the EMALS electromagnetic aircraft launch system developed by General Atomics will mean no catapult-specific restrictions on launch aircraft and will be able to carry out 25% more sorties. India will push for greater indigenous content to keep the cost down but it will be difficult to push out UK based companies who are already suppliers of the equipment which goes in the Elizabeth class aircraft carriers for the same cost reasons.
India currently operates one aircraft carrier, the 45,000-ton Vikramaditya, which is actually the former Soviet carrier Admiral Gorshkov. That ship has been plagued by engine problems as well as reliability issues with its MiG-29K fighters.
Under construction is India’s first indigenous carrier, the 40,000-ton Vikrant, while is scheduled to go to sea in 2020. But as is often the case with Indian-built defense projects, the vessel has suffered from problems such as massive cost overruns and disputes with Russian contractors who are supplying materials for the Indian-built ship.
But India wants a third and larger aircraft carrier, and BAE argues that its carrier would be ideal. “The UK carrier design has now been proven at sea and is a near match to the Indian Navy’s requirement for a 65,000-ton carrier with Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP), that could be constructed under the country’s ‘Make in India’ program
The United Kingdom reportedly has spent around $10.4 billions for development of both ships in V/STOL configuration and could have cost additional $2.6billions for the STOBAR configuration which India will need to bear, plus the cost of Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System which will be pegged at $1 billion and other weapons and armaments which cost additional. If the Indian Navy decides further design changes to other superstructures then cost is likely to go north further, delays in construction activity as in INS Vikrant can further escalate project cost.
Another interesting question is what carrier aircraft India will choose for its new ship. Boeing has offered the F/A-18 Super Hornet and France’s Dassault is touting the Rafale fighter. Meanwhile, if India goes with a ski jump carrier like the Queen Elizabeths, then there is always the possibility of seeking F-35Bs like those used by the British carriers.