Enduring Relevance of Aircraft Carriers: Indian Context
India Strategic|December 2016

THE AGE old debate rages on worldwide between strategists of both blocks, the ayes and naysayers, on re levance of the aircraft carriers with respect to their combat power vs vulnerability.

Vice Adm Shekhar Sinha

This has undergone period ic pendulous harmonics. Whether it is the US, Russia, United Kingdom and now China apart from India, the debate is identical. Even in countries with fewer maritime ambitions, such as Italy, Brazil, Spain and Thailand, this debate has been used either to acquire or to scuttle the process.

Very famous critique of aircraft carriers was John Lehman who articulated all ills of this platform when not part of the US administration, found himself appointed as the Navy Secretary by President Reagan after an administration change in the US. He, after much briefing on strategy and geopolitical realities, authored the policy of 13-carrier Navy for the US. This policy remains the driving policy document of force structure till date.

The United Kingdom Navy aircraft carrier force was scuttled completely by none other than the Royal Air Force post demise of the Soviet Union and the Cold War justifying diminished Soviet threat from long range maritime patrol aircraft. The Strategic Defence Review document out-sourced the fleet air defence and strike from seawards role of the Royal Navy to the NATO despite their carriers having proven their worth in the Falklands (Malvinas) conflict with the Argentines in 1982.

Russia, post Soviet era, during her resurrection attempt to become a great power realised that aircraft carrier will be a necessity if she was to rediscover her lost paradise. They went ahead and today we find their only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznitsov, deployed in Mediterranean in the ongoing Syria/ Iraq/ISIS conflict.

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