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Indian Navy plans to acquire its third aircraft carrier for whopping Rs 1.6 lakh crores
The Indian Navy is moving ahead with a big-ticket proposal for acquiring its third aircraft carrier which is expected to cost around Rs 1.6 lakh crore along with the additional component of 57 fighter aircraft. The Navy has one operational aircraft carrier in the INS Vikramaditya while another one, INS Vikrant, is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) and is expected to join service in the next few years. “The Navy is planning to field its Rs 70,000 crore proposal before the defence ministry in near future which will cost around Rs 1.6 lakh crore at the approval stage itself along with the fighter plane component and the actual costs will go higher further as the programme moves ahead,” government sources told Mail Today. The Navy has plans of buying 57 twin-engine fighter planes for the third aircraft carrier for which American F-18 and French Dassault Rafale are in the race. “If one goes by the cost of the 36 Rafales acquired for the Air Force, the 57 planes are not going to cost us less than Rs 90,000-95,000 crore,” the sources said. Citing the Chinese threat, the Navy had been asking for construction of the third nuclearpowered aircraft carrier using American technology and systems which is going to be far more expensive in comparison with the existing systems. The Navy has been arguing that it should have one aircraft carrier each for the eastern and western sea boards with one aircraft carrier in reserve to take care of the time taken for refit and repair of any of the two carriers. However, the defence ministry is not very keen on the project due to the high costs involved in it and it would force the government to change its acquisition plans for the coming years compelling it to wait list a number of other urgently required weapon systems of the Army and the Air Force, sources said. The cost of equipment for the aircraft carrier take-off patented by an American private sector firm will also be a major factor in determining the final cost of the carrier for India, the sources said. For buying the aircraft for the aircraft carrier, the Navy had floated a request for information (RFI) but it has not got any clearance from the defence ministry for issuing the tender for the project. However, the Navy has already allowed the vendors to give it a presentation on whether their planes would be able to take off from the Russian-origin INS Vikramaditya or not. Defence ministry sources also said the need for further expanding the aircraft carrier fleet needs to be thought over again as all targets and routes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) can be looked after well by the existing assets and bases in the area. Due to this reason, the defence ministry had refused to clear the five-year programme of the Navy as agreeing to it would required at least doubling the current acquisition budget of the ministry. The government of India already spends 28 per cent of its total acquisition budget on fulfilling the requirements of the three services and increasing it to a higher level does not seem possible in the near future, sources said.