India's Future Aircraft Carriers
Admiral Gorshkov, now INS Vikramaditya, a Soviet-era aircraft carrier India brought from Russia, later upgraded, refitted for the Indian Navy. Majority of Indian military hardware is Russian in origin.Reuters

India is not new to using aircraft carriers, and is building its first one, christened INS Vikrant, a 40,000 tonner. Reports suggest China too is building a second aircraft carrier after handing over Liaoning to People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

This has alarmed Indian strategic planners who may want to accelerate the process of India building its next aircraft carrier, tentatively named INS Vishal, a 65,000 tonner, which could possibly be nuclear-powered, flat decked and feature Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). This might help India shore up its blue water capacity.

Positive signals from the US indicate a possible collaboration with Indian Navy in building the complex boat. In what could also further heighten Indo-US relation, PTI quotes a top Pentagon official as saying both countries have had discussions on jointly developing a next-generation aircraft carrier.

In August, Vice Admiral SPS Cheema, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C), Western Naval Command, led the Indian delegation that held talks with the US officials and visited the under-construction state-of-art aircraft carrier, PCU Gerald Ford, being built for the US Navy at Newport News, Virginia.

The report said that the Indian side received "briefs on US Navy management of aircraft carrier programmes." The Indian side had questions on acquisition management of aircraft carriers.

Apart from having met the officials from the Pentagon, the Indian delegation also was given a tour of US Navy's research and development facilities for aircraft carrier launch and recovery systems.

"We believe there are opportunities to provide technical advice to the Indian Navy given our long history of aircraft carrier design and evolution," said Keith Webster, director and International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, PTI reported.

These visits and interactions are described as initial steps of exploring opportunities of cooperation between two of the largest democracies in the world. The next step would be India hosting the US Navy in the next six months, to take ahead the cooperation.

The Indian delegation is the result of understanding between US President Barack Obama and Indian PM Narendra Modi, during the latter's India visit early in the year, when they agreed to have a working group for India's next-generation aircraft carrier.

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