Do Indian Aircraft Carriers Pose a Serious Threat to Pakistan's Security?

India has recently inducted INS Vikrant, the South Asian nation's second aircraft carrier. This "indigenous" ship of the Indian Navy is powered by four American-made General Electric LM2500 marine gas turbines built in the US state of Ohio. It is a relatively small aircraft carrier with a displacement of 40,000 tons, top speed of 28 knots, cruise speed of 18 knots and 7,500 nautical miles (8,630 miles) range. INS Vikrant can carry up to 30 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft and 1600 sailors. India plans to equip it with Russian MiG-29K fighter jets and Westland Sea King helicopters, a British license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name. Does this latest addition to the Indian Navy pose a serious threat to Pakistan's security? Can Pakistan defend against it? 

Indian PM Modi Launched INS Vikrant Aircraft Carrier

In a 2017 paper for the US Naval War College Review, defense analyst Ben Wan Beng Ho discussed how India might use its aircraft carriers against Pakistan and how the latter would respond. Here are some key excerpts from it: 

"(I)t is doubtful that any attack force launched from an Indian carrier would pack a significant punch. “With aircraft available for strike duties barely numbering into the double digits, the Indian carrier simply cannot deliver a substantial ‘pulse’ of combat power against its adversary.”

“In any attempt to impose sea control in the northern Arabian Sea and to interdict Pakistani seaborne commerce by enforcing a blockade of major Pakistani maritime nodes, Indian carrier forces would have to devote a portion of their already meager airpower to attacking Pakistani vessels, thereby exacerbating the conundrum alluded to earlier. What is more, Pakistani ships are likely to operate relatively close to their nation’s coast, to be protected by Islamabad’s considerable access-denial barrier.”

Indian-American defense analyst Ashley Tellis has also raised serious questions about the Indian naval doctrine. He believes that the land-based fighter aircraft with refueling to extend range are a better option.  He also says that  aircraft carriers are highly vulnerable to sinking by stealthy submarines

There are lessons for the Indian military from Ukraine-Russia war. In April this year, Ukraine's Neptune anti-ship missiles hit and sank Moskva in Black Sea.  It was a large 10,000-ton guided missile cruiser of the Russian Navy that was launching cruise missiles on targets in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. It is the largest warship to have been sunk in action since WWII. 

Pakistan has recently showcased its anti-ship missile Harbah at DIMDEX 2022, a defense expo in Qatar. It  is a medium range ship launched subsonic cruise missile system capable of targeting sea as well as land targets in “all weather operation” at a maximum range of 280 kilometers, according to a report in NavalNews. The missile is fire and forget type. It relies on inertial navigation technologies with GPS and GLONASS systems. According to its manufacturer GIDS, the missile features the following guidance systems: a DSMAC camera, imaging infrared seeker, and radar seeker. More recently, Pakistan's ally China has successfully demonstrated its carrier-buster missile. A single round has to be slung underneath the fuselage. And its primary prey is likely to be enemy aircraft carriers. For this reason, it has been widely dubbed a ‘carrier killer’, according to Naval News

In a YouTube video, Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta noted that the Indian Navy hid its aircraft carriers from Pakistan Navy submarines in both 1965 and 1971 wars. He also recalled that Pakistani Navy warships destroyed Indian Naval Base at Dwarka in 1965, and Pakistani sub Hangor sank an Indian warship INS Khukri in 1971 war

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Comment by Riaz Haq on July 22, 2023 at 7:45am

Indian view of Pakistan Navy Modernization

https://thediplomat.com/2023/07/china-is-helping-modernize-the-paki...

by Guarav Sen

Pakistan has been proactively procuring technologically advanced naval vessels from China, headlined by a $5 billion deal signed in 2016 for Pakistan to acquire Yuan class Type 039/041 diesel submarines by 2028. Pakistan is all set to acquire eight such submarines from China, with four of them scheduled for delivery by the end of 2023. The first four subs are being built by China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation; the other four will be built in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, further bolstering Pakistan’s indigenous capabilities.

These submarines are equipped with advanced sensors and modern armaments, which tilts the tactical power balance slightly in favor of Pakistan. These diesel attack submarines align with the Pakistan Navy’s offensive sea denial strategy, which prioritizes the use of submarines and missile-carrying maritime patrol aircraft in naval warfare.

Apart from this, Pakistan is also expanding its surface fleet. It has commissioned Zulfiqar-class frigates, based on China’s Type 053H3 vessels, which serve multiple roles, including anti-submarine warfare. It carries YJ-82 missiles for anti-surface warfare and FM-90N short-range surface-to-air missiles for self-defense.

In January 2022, the Pakistan Navy commissioned its most advanced vessel, the guided missile frigate Tughril. The Tughril is the first of four powerful Type 054A/P frigates being built in Shanghai for the Pakistan Navy. The vessel is armed with surface-to-air missiles and supersonic surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), is a versatile warship capable of undertaking multiple missions. The second such vessel, the Taimur, was commissioned in June 2022.

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While the Tughril-class frigates represent a significant addition to Pakistan’s surface fleet, they do not pose a credible deterrent against the Indian Navy’s superior capabilities and numerical advantage. But still, India needs to monitor Pakistan’s shift toward power projection in the IOR. The addition of these advanced frigates enhances the Pakistan Navy’s capability to operate in distant waters, which is demonstrated by its ability to conduct joint drills with China’s navy in the East China Sea this year.

Besides China, Turkey is also playing a key role in stretching and modernizing Pakistan’s naval fleet. In 2018, Pakistan and Turkey signed a contract for the construction of four Milgem-class corvettes based on the design of Turkish Ada-class ships. Under the deal, Turkey will deliver four ships to Pakistan by February 2025.

Pakistan’s continued induction of higher-tonnage surface vessels reflects its ambition to enhance power projection in the region. The concerns for India lie not only in the naval imbalance but also in Pakistan’s first-ever maritime doctrine, “Preserving Freedom of Seas.”

Pakistan’s maritime strategy has evolved from an offensive sea denial approach to one focused on a sustained presence in the IOR. The Chinese-made J-10 fighter, which is part of China’s naval arm, can be used by the Pakistan Navy to carry out maritime operations in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The warplane can carry anti-ship missiles, which could enable the Pakistan Navy to play a more responsive role in the Indian Ocean.

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Presently, Pakistan cannot come close to matching the maritime power of its archrival India, but the continued push for modernization and renewed strategic cooperation with China and Turkey could change the status quo by transforming Pakistan into a genuine regional naval power. A strong Pakistan Navy equipped with advanced frigates and other weapons is part of Beijing’s grand plan to ensure the security of Chinese oil imports coming from the Persian Gulf and attain control of the sea lanes traversing the Indian Ocean.

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