India and USA have moved ahead on their collaboration to design and manufacture an aircraft carrier with advanced technology for the Indian Navy.In the last six days, a 13-member US team extensively toured Indian naval bases in Goa and Karwar besides checking on the facilities at the Mazgaon dock in Mumbai. The team also spent nearly four hours on-board INS Vikramaditya â€“ India’s only operational aircraft carrier.Indian Navy officials made it clear to the visiting US delegation that India looks at the transfer of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (Emals) from the USA for the proposed carrier, which currently is at the drawing board phase. The US Navy uses Emals in their Ford class aircraft carrier. Earlier this year, a team of visiting Indian Navy officers were given a tour to the USS Gerald R Ford, the super-carrier of the US Navy besides the manufacturing facilities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The two sides agreed that the 60,000-70,000 tonne Indian carrier would not run on nuclear propulsion as the technology was not readily available and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre would take almost 10-15 years to make appropriate nuclear reactors. But Emals is very much on the agenda and so are some of the critical technologies related to radars and electronics. However, a final decision on these technologies would be taken once the government decides on the type of aircraft to be flown from the carrier. In January 2017, the Navy floated a Request for Information for 57 combat jets at a price of nearly Rs 50,000 crore, after clarifying that the indigenous LCA Navy is far from being ready. Four companies including Boeing and Lockheed responded to the RFI. This is the fourth meeting between the two countries since the constitution of the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation in January 2015. In an earlier visit, the US team also inspected Indian Navy’s upcoming aircraft carrier Vikrant, which is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard. At the concluding session of the working group’s meeting here on Friday discussed plans for future co-operation under various aspects of aircraft carrier technology such as design optimisation, construction philosophy, trials procedure and project management. A joint statement was also signed. The meeting was chaired by Vice Admiral DM Deshpande, controller warship production and acquisition, and Rear Admiral Brian Antonio, program executive officer aircraft carriers. The two sides decided to meet again after six months to narrow down the areas of cooperation further. Indian Navy currently operates only one aircraft carrier and a second one is being built. But more carriers are required to protect 18 choke points in the Indian Ocean region where China is flexing muscles increasingly.
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