These 4 major new Indian military inductions mark a positive turning point

These 4 major new Indian military inductions mark a positive turning point

From INS Vikrant, LCH Prachand, C-295 aircraft facility to BrahMos missiles, the Indian Navy and Air Force have made giant strides in the defence sector.

Illustration by Soham Sen | The Print

Illustration by Soham Sen | The Print

A lot has happened in the defence arena over the last 12 months, and the year 2022 will go down in history as a turning point for the Indian military.

This is because India introduced the Agnipath scheme, which overthrows the earlier process of recruitment into the military.

In 2022, India also allowed women in other ranks in all streams of the Navy and the Air Force, including combat. While the year will be remembered for Agnipath, the fallout of which will only be understood a few years down the line, 2022 also witnessed some major inductions by the Indian military, which give it additional offensive and defence capability.

ThePrint takes a look at the four major inductions of 2022.

INS Vikrant

Meant to be a floating airfield armed to the teeth with its own battle group, INS Vikrant was commissioned into the Indian Navy this year, culminating a 13-year-long journey. This is a big achievement for India since it now joins a select group of countries capable of making an aircraft carrier of its own. With a displacement of 42,800 tonnes, Vikrant – which means “victorious” and “gallant” – is the largest ship ever designed and built by India. Work on this project started in 1999.

It is powered by four 22 MW gas turbine engines and has a range of 7,500 nautical miles (approximately 13,900 km), which translates into a maritime journey from India to Brazil in one go without the need to stop for refuelling.

The ship has a height of 61.6 metres (keel to pole mast) – as tall as 14 floors – and the flying deck is about 12,500 sqm, roughly the size of two-and-a-half hockey fields or 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

A fun fact is that the ship has 600km-long cabling and the power generated by it can actually light up a small town. The Navy is in the process of acquiring new fighter jets for its aircraft carrier fleet, and the Rafale M has emerged as the frontrunner.

Also read: Pralay — India’s first tactical quasi-ballistic missile, a step towards own rocket force

LCH Prachand

Another major induction was that of the first batch of indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), named LCH Prachand, 23 years after it was envisaged. Manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), its introduction marks the culmination of a process that began at the end of the 1999 Kargil conflict.

LCH is the first and only attack helicopter to land in forward bases at Siachen, 4,700 metres above sea level, with a 500kg Load. Seen as a force multiplier, the LCH is a 5.5-tonne class chopper and is powered by two Shakti engines. It is meant to be equipped with 20mm turret guns, 70mm rocket systems, and Mistral 2 air-to-air missiles. With a top speed of 330 kmph, the LCH Prachand’s induction is another significant moment for India’s indigenous military manufacturing.

Even though they have been inducted, Prachand lacks its main arsenal and protection suites for now, and it will take time to be fully operational. The attack helicopter – also known as tank buster – will get its anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) only by mid-2023, and while it is integrated with air-to-air missile launchers, the missile has not been ordered yet.

The ATGM intended to be integrated with Prachand is the indigenous Helina (the Army version), the Air Force version of which is called Dhruvastra. Work is still in progress, and weapon systems will be integrated only in 2023, along with self-protection suites.

It is estimated that the Army will go in for nearly 90 of them for its aviation arm to support ground operations, while the Indian Air Force (IAF) will have a little less.

Setting up of C-295 factory

The year 2022 also marked the laying of the foundation stone of a plant meant to manufacture the C-295 transport aircraft – the country’s first in the private sector – in Vadodara, Gujarat.

The facility will manufacture C-295 aircraft for the Indian Air Force through collaboration between Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Airbus Defence and Space SA, Spain. The C-295 is a 5-10 tonne capacity aircraft and will replace IAF’s ageing fleet of the British-made Avro transport aircraft that first flew in 1961.

Sixteen of these aircraft will arrive in flyaway condition from the Airbus facility in Spain between September 2023 and August 2025, and the remaining 40 will be built in India by a consortium of Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). The first ‘made-in-India’ C-295 will be rolled out in 2026, and the entire order is slated to be completed by 2031 at the rate of eight aircraft per year.

Also read: Defence ministry approves Rs 84,238 cr-procurement: Here are the big-ticket items on the list

BrahMos with enhanced range

Another key development has been the introduction of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles with enhanced range.

It was in May 2022 that India successfully fired the Extended Range Version of the BrahMos air-launched missile from Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. The missile had achieved a direct hit on the designated target in the Bay of Bengal region. The existing Brahmos, which had a range of 290 km, are now being tweaked to have a longer range. The land-launched BrahMos has a range of about 400 km, and work is also underway to increase its range to 800-1,500 km. The IAF currently has 40 SU-30 MKI with BrahMos, the only supersonic cruise missile in the world. The plan is to integrate more Sukhois with the BrahMos missile.

The missiles are manufactured in India under a joint venture that was formed in 1998 between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.

The name BrahMos is a portmanteau of the names of two rivers – India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva. The missile has a maximum speed of 2.8 Mach (around 3,450 kmph or 2,148 mph) and is difficult to intercept by surface-to-air missiles currently deployed from warships across the world. It also has an immense ability to evade radars.

The missile’s cruising altitude can be up to 15 km, and the lowest it can fly is 10 metres above the surface. It is capable of carrying a conventional warhead (non-nuclear) weighing 200-300kg.

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(Edited by Tarannum Khan)