Indian Navy’s nuke dream

Discussion in 'Indian Navy' started by AVERAGE INDIAN, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. AVERAGE INDIAN

    AVERAGE INDIAN EXORCIST Senior Member

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    INS Vikramaditya, the 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier, which was commissioned into the Indian Navy on November 16, 2013, will remain the Indian Navy’s largest ship for years to come. It is almost twice the size of the ageing aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, expected to be decommissioned after 2018, when it will be replaced by the 37,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, now being fitted out at the Kochi shipyard.

    Both Vikramaditya and Vikrant will use the simpler and cheaper STOBAR or Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery system, which uses a ski-jump ramp to launch fighters with only about 180 metres of runway, and uses arrester wires for recovery of aircraft within 50 metres of landing.
    The smaller aircraft carrier in service, the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, uses STOVL or Short Take Off But Vertical Landing system. STOVL, like STOBAR, uses a ski-jump to launch an aircraft, but does not need expensive arrester wires, as the fighter aircraft has the capability to land vertically, like a helicopter.

    STOVL is the simplest and cheapest option available to launch an aircraft, provided a suitable aircraft is available. Unfortunately, the only suitable modern aircraft for STOVL is the one being developed — American F35. It will cost over $200 million per aircraft at 2013 prices.
    Aircraft carriers provide instant and sustained air power thousands of miles out at sea.
    Both Vikramaditya and Vikrant will have a service life of about 50 years and will be capable of carrying and operating about 32 aircraft each, comprising a mix of 20 supersonic fighters — MiG 29K costing $40 million each, or the homebuilt Light Combat Aircraft costing $24 million each — and 12 helicopters.

    Media reports indicate that the Indian Navy is planning to build a third aircraft carrier of about 65,000 tonnes, which may or may not be nuclear-propelled.

    A total of 10 navies operate about 22 aircraft carriers. Only the US and French navies operate nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The US Navy operates 10 nuclear-powered 100,000-tonne aircraft carriers, with each ship capable of carrying about 55 fighters, and an assortment of about 35 aircraft-cum-helicopters for other roles — anti-submarine, airborne early warning etc.

    These 10 American carriers use the CATOBAR or Catapult Take-Off But Arrested Recovery system for aircraft launch in 100 metres and recovery in 50 metres. CATOBAR is a complex and the costliest option, but ensures a higher sortie rate of aircraft for various missions. The latest such American carriers like USS Ford cost $13 billion at 2013 prices and carry 90 aircraft, costing another $10 billion.

    To be effective in a hostile enemy environment an aircraft carrier needs to carry at least 36 jet fighters, in addition to about 12 helicopters. This requires a ship of about 65,000 tonnes. The need for a 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier is in keeping with the trend in medium-sized navies such as Russia and China, which operate one such carrier each, and the United Kingdom, which is building two such carriers for delivery in 2016 and 2018 respectively, at an estimated cost of about $5 billion each.

    Media reports indicate that the British, finding these ships and their fighter aircraft, the American F-35, to be prohibitively expensive, are ready to sell one of these carriers to India. India has apparently declined the offer in favour of indigenous construction.

    While nuclear power gives a submarine total stealth by enabling it to remain submerged and practically undetectable for a patrol duration of about 90 days, it does not provide the same stealth to an aircraft carrier which is on the surface.

    In addition, to avoid frequent expensive and time-consuming reactor nuclear refuelling, the American aircraft carriers refuel reactor uranium only after 25 years, by using reactors with Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), which at over 93 per cent enrichment is weapons-grade and requires special metallurgy.

    India currently does not have this capability, and its limited uranium stocks are best used for nuclear weapons and nuclear submarine propulsion. For these reasons, the next indigenous Indian aircraft carrier should be a conventionally powered STOBAR type with “affordable aircraft”, and the $2-3 billion thus saved should be used to make up the alarming and well-known shortfalls in our submarine force levels.

    The writer retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

    Indian Navy’s nuke dream | The Asian Age
     
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  3. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    IMHO, 2 conventional CATOBAR 60,000 ton AC is much more effective and efficient than 1 nuke powered 100,000 ton, both of which costs the same (carrier+airwing cost)

    In fact, I would prefer 3 conventional CATOBAR 45,000 ton AC to either of the above. More spread-out power projection, much more difficult to subdue.

    3x45k ton carrier with 30-35 crafts each > 2x60k ton carrier with 45-50 crafts each > 1x100k ton carrier with 90-95 crafts.
     
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  4. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    @DivineHeretic, your thoughts...

     
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  5. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

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    Very much a possible solution, but for it to be viable/feasible you'd need to examine the following points:

    1. Two carriers will require two additional battlegroups for escort. This is in addition to the ones required for the INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. At two destroyers a carrier, this will suck in our entire Destroyer assets for escort role. Also to be noted is that each of the 4 LPDs will require at least a Shivalik FFG escort.

    Unless the IN decides to increase the destroyer strength to 16, such an arrangement will be "difficult". A similar demand will be made on the submarine fleet as well, which being conventionally powered will require constant rotation.

    2. Each carrier group will require their own fleet tanker. Additionally, we will require at least twice the number of rotating replenishment vessels if the IN needs to station these carriers for extended operations.

    3. A 60,000 ton carrier is just as vulnerable as the 80,000 ton or the 100,000 ton carriers. Actually, the 60,000 ton carriers are even more vulnerable due to reduced mass and protection. Of course it can be argued that even if one goes down we will be left with another, but then that will be for the IN to decide.

    Ultimately though, putting aside the expenses discussion, I believe the biggest factor will be just how many aircrafts do the IN intend to keep onboard the carrier. If it is risk adverse to putting a larger aircraft complement for its carriers you suggestion should hold weight, if not, well cost-benefit says to go for the larger carrier.

    Also, last but not least, the IN will be aware that a smaller carrier has a reduced sortie rate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  6. lookieloo

    lookieloo Regular Member

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    FRP F-35Bs will likely cost less than half that price, but I digress...
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    Making a CATOBAR supercarrier work effectively for India would require one of the following in order to avoid a situation in which the three ships can't share at least some of the same aircraft.

    - Develop CATOBAR versions of Mig-29K, PAK-FA, and N-Tejas (not sure if this is even possible)
    - Buy Rafale-M (might not fit on all three ships)
    - Develop an entirely new *5th-gen* CATOBAR/STOBAR fighter (no such plans exist for AMCA so far as I know)
    - Make plans for eventual purchase of F-35C (may be too heavy for STOBAR)
    - Make plans for eventual purchase of F-35B (might have same problem as Rafale-M)

    For India's purposes and situation, I have to agree with the original post. A second (and perhaps a third) Vikrant-class ship is much more practical than a CATOBAR supercarrier due to limitations imposed by interoperability and available aircraft.......... and there's also the matter of those submarines that you need to build.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
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  7. DivineHeretic

    DivineHeretic Senior Member Senior Member

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    Theoretically speaking, it should not be impossible to change a STOBAR aircraft for CATOBAR operations. The aircraft is already certified for +9G stress (+12 in reality, but am assuming the lower number) and as such does not require any structural changes or strengthening on the main body for CATOBAR launch stresses, which are around +4G, if I'm not mistaken.

    What will however require strengthening is the carriage and especially the front wheel which is connected to the catapult. This strengthening will be required both for the wheel assembly as well as the joint for the wheel assembly to the main body of the aircraft, as this segment will transfer the entire energy and motion of the catapult to the aircraft.

    So, it should be possible for the Mig-29K to be converted for CATOBAR operations. It should be possible for the NLCA too, but I'll first let the aircraft take off from a flight deck of a STOBAR carrier.
     

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