NEW DELHI — Russia has offered its nuclear aircraft carrier, dubbed "Storm," to India for purchase, a senior Indian Navy official said. The offer comes as India and the US discuss the transfer of technology for India's future nuclear aircraft carrier, the INS Vishal.
A diplomat with the Russian Embassy confirmed that a Russian team visiting India last week made the offer.
Krylov State Research Center (KSRC), a Russian shipbuilding research and development institute, is designing the carrier, also known as Shtorm or Project 23000E.
"First revealed in May 2015, the Project 23000E multipurpose aircraft carrier is designed to conduct operations in remote and oceanic areas, engage land-based and sea-borne enemy targets, ensure the operational stability of naval forces, protect landing troops, and provide the anti-aircraft defense," the Navy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
India plans to build its second homegrown aircraft carrier, INS Vishal, which will be nuclear-powered, 300 meters long, 70 meters wide and displace 65,000 tons.
"The choice [India's] is to have a nuclear powered carrier, technology for which will not be easy to get, and international help will be needed by India in the design and development of the super carrier," Nitin Mehta, an independent defense analyst, said.
Russia has already overhauled and modernized a Kiev-class carrier-cruiser, renamed INS Vikramaditya, for the Indian Navy from 2004-2013 in which they "gained valuable insights into carrier-building techniques through that process," Mehta said.
The US, meanwhile, has offered the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), which is does not include nuclear propulsion technology and is unavailable for the Russian carrier, according to the Indian Navy official.
"EMALS is a major attraction because it is flexible and allows variety of aircraft to come on the deck including the lighter, homemade light combat aircraft and heavy fighter aircraft," he said.
India and the US have formed a joint working group on aircraft carrier technology cooperation, but there is no discussion so far on offering nuclear technology for Indian aircraft carrier.
India has still to decide whether to buy the super carrier or build it locally.
"We will have to pay at least $12 billion to buy a nuclear power aircraft carrier that has EMALS capability but [the Indian] government will never approve the funding," the Indian Navy official said.
Anil Jai Singh, a retired Indian Navy commodore and defense analyst, is doubtful if India would buy a nuclear carrier.
"It is doubtful if India will be able to source a 65,000-ton carrier from another country, and [it] will be too expensive to buy", Singh said. "Does the Indian Navy really think it would have the kind of global footprint to justify that expense in the next 15 years or so?"
An Indian Ministry of Defence official said India must still finalize details on how to acquire its next homegrown carrier.