India Is Slowly Becoming One Of The World's Aircraft Carrier Leaders
With one large carrier in service and another on the way, India has become one of the world’s pre-eminent naval aviation powers. How did the program come about? Where is it going? And what is the strategic rationale for India’s massive investment in aircraft carriers?
The Origins of India’s Carriers
Despite considerable economic challenges, India took carrier aviation very seriously in the years after independence. Unlike China (or even the Soviet Union), India focused on carriers instead of submarines. INS Vikrant, a Majestic-class light carrier, served from 1961 until 1997, fighting effectively in the 1971 war. INS Viraat, formerly the Centaur-class carrier HMS Hermes, joined the Indian Navy in 1987 and served until 2016. These carriers gave the Indian Navy long-term experience in carrier ops, as well as a compelling organizational logic for maintaining a carrier capability.