Russian 'Storm' top candidate to be India's new aircraft carrier - report

Model of the aircraft carrier project 23000E at the «Army 2015» exhibition. © Artem Tkachenko
India will reportedly shortly announce a tendering procedure for building its fourth aircraft carrier. A new Russian project called “Storm”, which was made public last year, is said to be among the frontrunners.

India’s plans to have a new aircraft carrier have been floating around for some time. French defense newsletter TTU reported that a French delegation visited India in late January to propose the naval version of the Dassault Rafale jet to complement its future bid. The US is also eyeing the lucrative contract.

However, according to the Izvestia newspaper, the Russian project is the favorite in the upcoming tender. Russia's Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC) will be offering its new multipurpose heavy aircraft carrier design called Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm). The project was first revealed to the public in June at the Army-2015 show near Moscow, where a scale model of the ship was exhibited.

The design has a displacement of up to 100,000 tons, is 330 meters long, 40 meters wide, and has a draft of 11 meters. It has a nuclear power plant, although initial plans state a conventional one may also be used. The ship is designed to sail at up to 30 knots (around 55 km/h) and withstand sea state 6-7 (characterized by waves up to 9 meters high).

The carrier can remain 120 days at sea before needing a port. It will have a crew of 4,000 to 5,000 and deploy up to 100 aircraft. The air wing will include naval versions of T-50s (PAK FA) currently in development and MiG-29Ks, as well as early warning radar aircraft, most likely Yak-44Es.

The flight deck is of dual design and features four launching positions. Two have ski-jump ramps and the other two have electromagnetic catapults to enable take-off from a shortened runway.

The Russian bid is favored by the Indians partly because Moscow is willing to allow bigger technology transfers than the French and American contenders, Izvestia said. A program called Make in India launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 seeks to stimulate domestic production of high-tech products, including military hardware.

Russia enjoys strong defense cooperation with India, including its navy. One of the country’s two serving aircraft carriers, the INS Vikramaditya, is a Kiev-class Soviet ship, which was rebuilt by Russia. The other, the INS Viraat – formerly the HMS Hermes of the British Royal Navy – is to be decommissioned in June and replaced in 2018 with its first domestically build aircraft carrier of the Vikrant class, which Russia helped design and build in a joint effort with Italy.

India is also cooperating with Russia in aircraft design and production. An “Indian” version of the PAK FA is being developed, which facilitates India’s domestic acquisition of aircraft for the future carrier. The Indian Navy is already the prime user of MiG-29Ks.