The British warship that India wants: quantum leap on the high seas

November 16th, 2009 - 8:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Nov 16 (IANS) A futuristic aircraft carrier that India is reported to be keen on buying from Britain is envisaged as a giant guardian of the high seas, capable of travelling thousands of kilometres from home and wreaking massive destruction on enemy targets, experts said Monday.

India has reportedly “lodged a firm expression of interest” in buying one of two huge aircraft carriers that are currently under construction - the largest warships ever built by Britain, and designed to be the most capable aircraft carriers outside the US Navy.

Britain is considering selling the warship to India for two billion pounds under a cost-cutting plan chalked out by its ministry of defence, the Observer reported Sunday quoting senior defence sources.

The two 65,000-tonne ships are being built for the Royal Navy by British Aerospace (BAE) - HMS Queen Elizabeth, on which work began this July will be the first to be rolled out in 2016. And preparatory work has started for the second, the Prince of Wales, due for launch in 2018.

A leading British naval expert told IANS the two warships embody a “huge quantum leap” in terms of technology, reach and power.

“It’s all about power projection. The Indian Navy is in the process of expanding its reach as a naval force capable of operating far from its own shores,” said Jon Rosamond, editor of the authoritative Jane’s Navy International.

“The Indian Navy has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy mission, but this ship will increase its reach even further afield,” he added.

“It would give India access to the Far East and even the Western Pacific. The aircraft carrier has a life span of 40-50 years, so there has been a lot of speculation. People are talking about the rivalry with China in particular,” Rosamond told IANS.

The ships under construction are the result of recommendations that came out of a wide-ranging Strategic Defence Review (SDR) undertaken by the Labour government in 1997 of nearly every weapon system in Britain.

The SDR concluded: “The emphasis is now on increased offensive air power, and an ability to operate the largest possible range of aircraft in the widest possible range of roles.”

The warships will be equipped with ski ramp-assisted takeoff at the front, which will suit the Sukhoi strike aircraft that India is buying from Russia, Rosamond said.

“It will be able to carry not only enhanced aircraft, but also more of them,” Rosamond said.

Strategic experts said that the anticipated “quantum jump” in Indian naval power would have the backing of the world’s major navies.

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