Adm Arun Prakash responds to "Do we really need an aircraft carrier?"

Responding to the post about the induction of a INS Kesari, one of our commenters, Ankur, suggested that the real need for an aircraft carrier in the Indian fleet was questionable, since a carrier battle group was "simply an offensive weapon". I told Ankur that I'd get the best person on the subject to offer us his views. Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash, who has served on INS Vikrant, and commanded India's sole present aircraft carrier INS Viraat, has very kindly offered LiveFist the following insights on the matter:

Admiral Arun Prakash: It is not quite appropriate to say that an aircraft-carrier's sole purpose is to project power, and that a battle group (CBG) is therefore only an offensive unit/formation... So why does India need one? This is an old debate and could go on for a long time, but let me just make a couple of brief points:

An aircraft carrier's raison d'etre is to provide comprehensive support to maritime forces, and not the other way round. This support can be to forces operating at sea, as well as ashore. At sea, the support is in all three dimensions. For example: it would take many hours/days of search by LRMP (long-range maritime patrol) aircraft or ASW (anti-submarine warfare) ships to localise a diesel submarine (SSN or SSBN in the very near future) in the Indian Ocean. Thereafter, it will require a force of 6-8 large ASW helicopters operating around the clock to search and locate such an elusive target, and attack it if required. Only a carrier can provide this kind of sustained ASW support within a few minutes of flying time and for as long as required.

If our maritime forces are going to operate within range of enemy air threat, which could be from strike aircraft, or missile-armed LRMP machines, they will require fighter protection within a matter of minutes, and 24x7. Again, only a carrier operating in support of the force can provide this kind of cover.

The carrier's fighters will also make sure that no surface ship (missile armed or otherwise) can get anywhere near 150-200 miles of a maritime force.

Finally, carriers are an invaluable asset in littoral and amphibious warfare, because of their manifold capabilities, including sea-lift as well as heli-lift. Carrier critics will of talk of the size & vulnerability of a carrier. Nothing at sea is invulnerable, and certainly not in war. But carriers, by virtue of their integral aircraft and helicopter force can keep any threat at bay. And if hit, by virtue of their size can absorb far more damage than any other ship. - AP

More by Admiral Arun Prakash on LiveFist:
On the China Threat
On the New Indo-US Strategic Partnership
On what platforms the future Indian Navy needs
On DRDO, Obsolesence and Self-reliance (FORCE Magazine)
On the need for nuclear submarines
On the future of Naval aviation

Labels: , , , , ,