Sunday, September 05, 2021

Indian Naval Aviation Gets President’s Colour, But Helicopter Problem Persists

India’s Naval Air Arm turned 68 earlier this year, and no one can contest that it has been vital in times of war as well as peace. From the liberation of Goa through to present-day natural disasters, naval aircraft—whether fighters, submarine-hunters, or helicopters—have been committed to operations across India and the region.

The past month has seen naval aviation in the news for a multitude of reasons. First was the maiden sea trial of the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1), to be named Vikrant. The five-day sail, first of a series of planned trials before delivery, saw various elements of the ship being put through their paces, and even a few helicopter embarkations. The award of the President’s Colours to Naval Aviation was announced soon after, which will take place at the ceremonial parade in Goa on September 6. Colours for naval aviation is a recognition of the worth and contribution of the entire aerospace enterprise of the Navy, ashore and at sea, and is certainly well deserved, arguably overdue.

But it is the final element of the Indian Navy’s prominence in the past month that should temper any exuberance. From the Western Pacific to the English Channel, the Indian warships ‘fly the flag’ and exercise with partner navies. This is vital for securing Indian interests and bolstering Indian credibility at sea.

However, when Indian vessels, or, more precisely, their embarked helicopters, are juxtaposed with those they operate alongside, it exposes how New Delhi’s maritime ambitions are resourced.


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