The Navy is homing in on electric propulsion for a planned future aircraft carrier, with a hybrid system likely to be considered for development, most likely in partnership with a US based partner. Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh confirmed on Thursday that that electric propulsion is being considered but did not give any timelines for the project.
“Our plan is to build a 65,000 tonner, possibly with electric propulsion and CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take off but Arrested Recovery) so that if we have three aircraft carrier, at least two will be operational at any given time,” the Navy chief said at the side-lines of a seminar on warship building by FICCI.
India currently has the INS Vikramaditya (bought from Russia) operational while the second carrier, to be named INS Vikrant is under construction at the Cochin ShipyardNSE 0.22 % Limited. Both these carrier are based on the STOBAR concept – Short Take Off but Arrested Recovery.
Sources have told ET that the Navy is considering hybrid electric propulsion for the third aircraft carrier being planned for the future. While the carrier – still in the concept stage – will be conventionally powered, the Navy foresees a huge requirement for electric power that will necessitate a hybrid propulsion system.
Sources said that the Virginia, US based Huntington Ingalls – the sole designer and builder producer of American aircraft carriers - could be roped in for a consultant for the future Indian warship plan. India and the US have an official Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation that has been meeting to work on the project.
The Indian project however has not yet been given financial clearances by the government even though the Navy has been pushing ahead, bringing out the increasing challenges in the Indian Ocean Region as well as the steady build up of the Chinese Navy.
Huge electric power is also required as the Indian Navy is considering Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for the future carrier – a new technology that can launch much heavier aircraft from the deck.
While in the US, the EMALS system is powered by nuclear energy, the Indian Navy is desisting from going nuclear, perhaps as indigenous technology is still not available.
Then Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba told ET in December 2018 that the 65000 ton, CATOBAR carrier will be conventionally powered and is `central to the Navy’s philosophy to have three aircraft carrier battle groups’.
The defence ministry is however going slow on what some consider a prohibitively expensive naval program, with officials suggesting optimal utilization of resources for other critical purchases – like submarines and advanced frigates. By conservative estimates, the cost of construction of the carrier itself, without the aircraft, would exceed Rs 70,000 crore.