BAE Systems Offering Queen Elizabeth (QE) Class Aircraft Carrier Design to India: Report

British defence major, BAE Systems is offering its Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carrier design to the Indian Navy, Australian Defence Magazine (ADM) reported citing a company representative.

According to the report, the representative confirmed the offering while speaking at the 2019 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition last week.

The Indian Navy currently operates one aircraft carrier, the 45,000 ton INS Vikramaditya. She is a modified Soviet Kiev-class aircraft carrier which embarks MiG-29K fighter jets and helicopters. India is also building a second carrier, the 40,000 tonne INS Vikrant (IAC-I), at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd. (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala. She is expected to begin her sea trials in 2020. Both the carriers feature a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) configuration with a ski-jump.

BAE Systems is now offering the Queen Elizabeth design for the India’s second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-II) project, which is envisaged as being larger and more capable than the IAC-I. The 65,000 tonne carrier will be reportedly known as INS Vishal in Indian Navy service and will also be built by Cochin Shipyard.

“BAE Systems is pleased to have begun discussions with India about the potential for basing development of the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) project on the Queen Elizabeth class design,” the representative was quoted as saying in the ADM report. “The design is adaptable to offer either ski-jump or catapult launch and can be modified to meet Indian Navy and local industry requirements.”

The Indian Navy has earlier reached out to four international defence companies for suggestions with the design of INS Vishal. The letters of request (LoR) were sent to BAE Systems, French firm DCNS (now Naval Group), American firm Lockheed Martin and Russian firm Rosoboronexport on July 15, 2015, according to a report in Jane’s Navy International. The letter asks the companies to “provide technical and costing proposals” for the IAC-II program.

According to earlier reports, the carrier will be a 65,000-tonne, two-deck, CATOBAR (catapult take off but arrested landing), conventionally powered vessel. It is intended to be the first supercarrier to be built in India.

The ship would reportedly incorporate the state-of-the-art EMALS (Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System) and AAG (Advanced Arresting Gear) systems developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) for launching and recovering aircraft. These systems are currently incorporated on U.S. Navy’s latest Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers. If equipped with EMALS system, the carrier would be able to to launch heavier aircraft like larger fighter jets, Airborne Early-Warning (AEW) aircraft and refueling tankers.

The new carrier was initially expected to enter service by the 2020s but latest reports suggests that it will enter service only by 2030 due to the technical challenges involved in assimilating and integrating several advanced technologies for the first time in an Indian carrier.

Queen Elizabeth-Class Aircraft Carrier

Queen Elizabeth-class is a class of two aircraft carriers of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. The lead ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was commissioned on 7 December 2017 and the second, HMS Prince of Wales, is planned to be commissioned in 2020.

The carriers were built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA), a partnership formed with Babcock International, Thales Group, A&P Group, Rosyth Dockyard, the UK Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems (after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group’s VT Shipbuilding, which was a requirement of the UK Government). They are the largest warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy.

The vessels are 280 metres long and have a displacement of approximately 65,000 tonnes. They can embark a Carrier Air Wing (CVW) of up to 40 aircraft (though they are capable of carrying up to fifty at full load). They are constructed in Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) configuration with ski-jump, deploying the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II STOVL fighter aircraft.

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