India Struggles to Keep Navy Afloat

India Struggles to Keep Navy Afloat

NEW DELHI -- India's defense procurement and modernization processes are infamously slow, and mired in red tape, corruption, and lack of long-term strategic planning. One prominent result has been the country's unsuccessful quest to either procure aircraft carriers internationally or build them at home.

The delays have forced India to refit its sole aircraft carrier -- the 50-year-old INS Viraat, which according to earlier plans should have been junked by now -- to operate for five more years, by which time India hopes to have procured more.

The irony is that, over time, Viraat's air fleet has also been substantially depleted due to accidents, which makes the ship essentially a "toothless tiger," as an anonymous army official was recently quoted as saying. In the 1980s, the Indian navy inducted roughly 30 British Sea Harriers for the 28,000-ton Viraat. More than half have been lost to crashes, with the latest going down in August in Goa, killing the pilot and resulting in the grounding of the jets pending an inquiry.

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