India and the US have taken another leap in defence cooperation with the joint working groups (JWG) on new generation aircraft carriers and jet engine technology conducting their first video conferences. The two working groups were created after President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit this year, and defence minister Manohar Parrikar had sought high-end critical technologies from Washington during US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to the Capital this week.
South Block sources said US is offering state-of-the-art electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), advanced arresting gear (AAG) and latest three-dimensional electronic warfare suite for the proposed second indigenous aircraft carrier, the 65,000-tonne INS Vishal.
A Vikrant-class carrier, INS Vishal is still in the design stage and could have nuclear propulsion. The JWG on aircraft carrier technology, sharing and design is headed by US Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, and Chief Controller, Warship Production and Acquisition from the Indian Navy.
“The aircraft carrier group has already moved ahead with India planning to send a team to US to study the aircraft carrier technology. The EMALS system, a quantum technology upgrade from traditional steam catapults, is built by General Atomics and will be used for the first time in Gerald Ford class US aircraft carriers. The jet engine group represented by air force from both sides has also met over video conference with India seeking hot engine technology that allows fighters to perform in extreme hot conditions like those existing in Thar desert,” said a senior official.
While India has a long history of naval aviation and operates two aircraft carriers, including INS Vikramaditya, China’s sole aircraft carrier Liaoning was launched in 2012 but is still under trial stage and far from active service.
India is the only country in Asia that fully operates aircraft carriers though Thailand also purchased a carrier in 1997.
Although India-US finalized joint development of mobile electric hybrid power sources and nuclear-biological-chemical protective gear, it was evident from Secretary Carter’s exchanges with Indian leadership that the latter was interested in big ticket transformative technologies which would give an orbital jump to Indian military capabilities.