With the US and India agreeing to explore the joint development of India’s next-generation aircraft carrier, a leading think tank has suggested US offer India latest technology to help increase Indian Navy’s combat power.
“While the Indian Navy has already begun design work, wide-ranging cooperation with the United States has enormous potential,” Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace suggested. “Such collaboration would increase the Indian Navy’s combat power and would resonate throughout the Asian continent to India’s strategic advantage,” he wrote in a new report.
“The most valuable US contributions are likely to materialise in the fight, possibly in the move, and hopefully in the integrate functions,” Tellis wrote.
Specifically, he suggested that the US explore the possibility of equipping India’s carrier with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS).
It should also offer India access to various advanced aviation systems, such as the US Navy’s E-2C/D Hawkeye for airborne early warning and battle management and the fifth-generation F-35C Lightning strike fighter, Tellis wrote.
This would help the Indian Navy to secure a combat advantage over its rivals’ air wings, said the Indian-American expert who worked as a key adviser to the Bush administration on the landmark India-US nuclear deal.
The US, Tellis suggested, should consider changes to current US policy to allow for discussions about nuclear propulsion technology to make the integration of EMALS technology a viable option for India’s next-generation carrier.
It should also support a partnership between the Indian Navy and the US Naval Sea Systems Command, and US private industry to validate the vessel’s engineering and production designs as also coordinate on sea trials prior to commissioning the ship.
Washington should also “encourage the conclusion of consulting contracts and memoranda of understanding between Indian shipyards and US industry to assist India in incorporating advanced construction techniques when building its new large-deck carriers,” Tellis wrote.
“The prospect of a major Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean transforms India’s hitherto secure rear into a springboard from which coercive power can be brought to bear against the Indian landmass,” he said.
Thus “the principal objective underlying bilateral cooperation should be to ensure that India’s next-generation aircraft carrier-to include its air wing and its capacity for combat operations-will be superior to its Chinese counterparts,” Tellis said.
Though cooperation on the fight, move, and integrate functions is likely to be most indispensable and rewarding, joint development should in principle span all the mission areas involved in carrier design, he said.
“Above all else, the Indian Navy should not succumb to the temptation to make collaborative development merely an exercise in procuring technology,” Tellis wrote.