Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 18:05 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 18:05 | SYDNEY

India-China: The carrier race


Sam Roggeveen


2 July 2012 17:29

China and India are neck-and-neck in their development of new-generation aircraft carriers. Both navies now have 'new' ships undergoing sea trials, and the race is on to see which will be the first to undertake landing trials for fixed wing aircraft.

The Times of India reports that India's new carrier, a heavily modified ex-Soviet vessel named INS Vikramaditya (above, image courtesy of Key Aviation Forum) which recently went to sea for the first time in its renovated state, will start aviation trials later this month. The new Chinese carrier, another heavily modified ex-Soviet vessel of so far unknown name, has now made eight sea trials, though nothing other than a helicopter is known to have landed on its huge deck.

Whoever wins the symbolic race to be the first country to land and launch fixed-wing aircraft, it is worth remembering just how far behind both countries are to the Americans. And it's not just the fleet of 11 aircraft carriers operated by the US Navy, each of which is far more powerful than the Chinese or Indian vessel. It's the 'mini' carriers that the US Navy is now introducing, the America class.

These are ostensibly amphibious assault ships, but can be configured to act as 'light' aircraft carriers. Displacing 45,000 tons and with the ability to carry 20 strike aircraft, they will actually be around the same size as India's new carrier and arguably more capable than either the Indian or Chinese vessel.

On the other hand, Morris Jones' words on The Interpreter last week should also be kept in mind. Reports that China is decades behind the US in space technology 'fail to account for the "leapfrog" effect of technological advances, and the benefit of experience from other nations. Such effects are propelling much of Africa from being disconnected from telecommunications to enjoying broadband wireless services in just a few years. The effects are just as significant for China's space missions.'