India's recent display of naval strength involved conducting a combined operation in the Arabian Sea with its two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. This showcase of formidable maritime capabilities signifies India's ability to project power not only in the Indian Ocean but also beyond.
The accomplishment of dual-carrier operations is a significant milestone that only the United States Navy has achieved in recent memory.
Analysts recognize the magnitude of this achievement, emphasizing that the Indian Navy is one of the few in the world to operate more than one aircraft carrier.
The exercise involved the participation of over 35 aircraft, along with a diverse fleet of surface ships and submarines. Through this successful demonstration, the Indian Navy highlights the pivotal role of sea-based air power in establishing and maintaining maritime superiority.
India attained the capability for dual-carrier operations when INS Vikrant, its first domestically built carrier worth $3 billion, was commissioned in September of the previous year.
This milestone placed India alongside the United Kingdom and China, as one of the few countries to commission a domestically built aircraft carrier in the preceding three years.
While both China and the UK possess multiple aircraft carriers in their modern fleets, they have yet to conduct dual-carrier operations with them. Experts attribute India's advantage in this field to its long-standing experience and expertise in aircraft carrier operations.
Despite China's significant progress in its indigenous aircraft carrier program, India's naval history gives it an edge in the current operating environment for aircraft carriers.
China currently operates two aircraft carriers, namely the Liaoning (a Soviet-built carrier) and the domestically built Shandong, with a third carrier, the Fujian, having been launched but not yet commissioned.
In contrast, the US Navy, viewed as a pacing threat by China in the Indo-Pacific region, operates the world's largest carrier fleet, consisting of 11 warships. Recently, the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, two US aircraft carriers, conducted joint operations in the Philippine Sea.
India's dual-carrier operations not only demonstrate the rejuvenation of its navy but also reflect its growing concern regarding China's aggressive behavior along their shared border and expanding operations in the Indian Ocean.
India's naval expansion and modernization efforts aim to address this security challenge. Furthermore, India has been actively enhancing cooperation with other navies in the Indo-Pacific region, including through the annual Malabar naval exercises involving the informal Quad partnership (United States, Japan, and Australia).
While the recent display of dual-carrier operations is impressive, experts point out that questions remain regarding the operational capability of India's carrier program. Images from the exercise revealed relatively few fighter aircraft on the decks of INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, suggesting limited aircraft availability or possible constraints on the ships' capacities.
This highlights the potential need for India to acquire more carrier aircraft to fully realize its operational potential.
In summary, India's successful dual-carrier exercise underscores its growing naval prowess and power projection capabilities. The demonstration of such operations highlights India's commitment to regional security and its aspiration to play a significant role in the Indo-Pacific region.