India is preparing to acquire a new aircraft carrier for Rafale fighters.

This Friday, the government of New Delhi announced the acquisition of a new aircraft carrier worth 400 billion rupees (4.8 billion dollars) to counter the Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean region.

The Defense Acquisition Council – the country’s top defense decision-making body, chaired by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh – is expected to clear the acquisition of its second indigenous aircraft carrier, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. They asked not to be quoted because the conversations were private.

The insider said the new aircraft carrier, which can accommodate at least 28 fighter jets and helicopters and displaces 45,000 tons – a ship size measure suitable for the needs of India, where French Rafale jets will fly. India’s first homemade aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, joined the fleet last year and was built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The country also has a Russian-made Kiev-class aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

A three-carrier battle group will be a show of force for the Indian navy in the Indian Ocean at a time when the naval wing of China’s People’s Liberation Army – the world’s largest navy, with 370 ships and submarines – is increasing its presence in the region. An expanded fleet also allows India to influence the seas by continuously being present in many far-off places, sources said.

Representatives from the Ministry of Defense and the Indian Navy declined to comment.

The Indian Ocean is already heavily militarized, with up to 125 warships, including those of the US, France and Japan, plying its waters at any given time, roughly triple the number of vessels deployed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. , when Washington invaded Kabul. Indian waters have not seen such intense competition since World War II, as China, the United States, and their allies deploy more warships to the area. That’s forcing the South Asian nation to up the ante, too.

According to people familiar with the matter, India plans to have 160 warships by 2030 and 175 by 2035, at an estimated cost of Rs 2 trillion. They added that more than 60 Indian Navy ships are currently in different construction phases. The country is carrying out more warship patrols than ever amid growing concerns about China’s growing naval prowess.

India has also upgraded runway facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, allowing planes to land at night. This is an attempt to monitor the Straits of Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok in the southern Indian Ocean more closely. India and its partners use the island chain for maritime surveillance.

Sudhi Ranjan Sen