India’s Nuclear Capacity: the Super Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier to be built in 2016 powered by two A1B nuclear reactors. image from wikipedia, artist's concept of the carrier

India’s navy has finalised plans for a nuclear-powered super-carrier, which is scheduled to be built in Kochi with US help.  In preparation for the long-gestation project, estimated for the year 2028, the navy is setting up the building blocks that will identify the aircraft to be based on the carrier.  The carrier is  to be called the INS-Vishal.

Nuclear energy enables a carrier to sail for months without needing to dock for refuelling. The navy wants a nuclear-powered carrier….to enhance its reach beyond territorial waters.  It has determined that the carrier will need a nuclear reactor generating 180MW for propulsion, and may go for two reactors of 90MW each. Talks with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) are at an advanced stage.

The navy has bolstered its case for a nuclear-powered carrier by citing the nuclear deals India has signed not only with the US but also with Japan and Germany, albeit for peaceful uses of nuclear technology…The navy had invited preliminary inquiries from foreign entities for the design and development of the Vishal: DCNS of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia, Lockheed Martin of the US. Within the top brass, however, there is now a congealing of opinion that the US option may be the one to go after.

This is as much because of the technology regime that India promises to enter following the nuclear deals as because the US is actually operating carriers and building them, the latest being the Gerald R Ford class….India and the US have a joint working group on sharing, and possibly co-producing, the electromagnetic aircraft launch system that is going into the USS Gerald R Ford.

“In the Arihant (the Indian nuclear submarine now in sea trials) we have gained, with some Russian help, the ability to develop a reactor for our purpose. Barc is confident that it can build for the carrier too,” the officer said…The only Indian operational carrier now is the Vikramaditya. At 45,000 tonnes it has a flight deck that is still too small for the new dimensions of carrier operations the navy is envisaging from the Vishal, the officer said.

Excerpts from Plan for nuclear-driven carrier with US help, the Telegraph (Calcutta) May 16, 2016

 

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