Russia Claims to Start Building an Aircraft Carrier for Indian Navy

India prepares for building of a 300-meter long nuclear-powered aircraft carrier capable to accommodate 54 warplanes. Prime contenders to assist in the ship building are Russia and France.

Media reported in the summer of 2015 that Russia, France, the UK and the US had received requests for proposal regarding the new carrier. Nonetheless, according toLenta.Ru, prime bidders will be the countries that delivered ship-based airplanes to India earlier. Russian aircraft is represented in the Indian Navy by MiG-29K fighters, and France will start delivery of Rafale war planes in the nearest future.

INS Vikramaditya
INS Vikramaditya

Currently, the Indian Navy operates INS Vikramaditya(a retrofitted Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov), and ex-British light carrier INS Viraatwhich is to be decommissioned in 2016.

Nigeria to Buy 3 JF-17s, 10 Super Mushshak

Nigeria to Buy 3 JF-17s, 10 Super Mushshak

China's J-20 and Geopolitical Implications.

The J-20 project has made some significant progress in the past 2 years with the roll out of prototypes 2011 to 2017 to accelerate the flights testing and development of the J-20 aircraft. With the roll out of 2101, what appears to J-20’s first LRIP aircraft, it’s possible that the first batch of J-20s will get delivered to FTTC this year to start the process of expanding flight envelope, testing/evaluating new weapon systems, developing new training procedures and combat tactics for a new aircraft. If FTTC evaluation proceeds well, J-20 may be certified and start entering into service next year. It looks like the project is proceeding a couple of years faster than the original expectations. For this entry, I want to look at how the progress of J-20 vs progress of other fighter jet projects affects regional balance of air power.

To start off, the most obvious threat to PLAAF comes from the vast number of F-35s that will be deployed in the APAC region by America and its allies. Due to defense cutbacks by many Western countries, key American allies in APAC region should not have to wait too long to get their F-35s. If J-20 enters service in the next 2 years, it will enter service extremely underpowered since WS-15 is not yet ready. As a result, I think the initial J-20s will have to carry limited fuel and payload in order to achieve desired flight performance. Until WS-15 does become certified with J-20 sometimes next decade, there are certain missions involving longer range and greater payload that J-20 just cannot perform. USAF and USN’s will have overwhelming qualitative and quantitative advantage in the region against PLAAF in the short term. Even after J-20 enters service in larger numbers later with WS-15, I think USAF and USN’s F-35s will still have both qualitative and quantitative advantage in the region. J-20 probably will have certain advantages over F-35 in flight performance, power and payload, but will definitely be at large disadvantage in stealth, sensors, weapon system and the ability to operate in a network centric environment. Reading Chinese sources, I have often gotten the impression that PLAAF regards F-35 as its biggest threat (even more than F-22) due to F-35’s technical and numerical advantage over what China might field. I don’t think anything from the past couple of years have really changed that.

F-16 Factor between PAF and IAF

The recent announcement of of Eight more F-16s for the PAF has been cause of much anxiety and depression in the neighbourhood. Albeit Pakistan has been operating the Fighting Falcon for over Thirty years with newer and more capable models being acquired within the last decade, however, the reaction by India to the recent acquisition has been unprecedented. This is all the more scandalous since India currently is one of the top armament purchasing country boasting of fourth largest air force in the world.

But it's also possible that India does have real concerns as the F-16s continue to rattle nerves in New Delhi.

According to Indian writer Pushpinder Singh, the arrival of F-16s in the Sub-continent caused such alarm bells that India in response ended up purchasing no less than 220 assorted fighter jets from Russia and France, hence the latest reaction by India thus shouldn't come as a surprise. 

The F-16, the most widely used and combat proven aircraft of recent times has also proved it's tremendous capabilities within the PAF. Soon after bit's arrival in Pakistan in the mid-80s, it was immediately pressed into service against joint Afghan/Soviet threat and in the process shot down no less than a dozen Soviet origin aircraft without a single loss to enemy action, since PAF never disclosed about those aircraft that fell on the other side of the border, so the actual number of victims, which is much higher remains classified.

A PAF F-16 also made history by achieving first night interception and shooting down of an IAF spy drone of Israeli origin in 2002. In 2005, Pratt & Whitney presented a plaque to the PAF in recognition of flying the F-16 for over 100,000 accident free flight hours.
A notable incident took place in 2008, when some Indian aircraft in a threatening manner intruded into Pakistan airspace and were promptly intercepted by PAF F-16s and escorted out.

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