Thursday, July 14, 2016

Russia's Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm) Aircraft Carrier Design: A Strong Contender

Photo credit: Artem Tkachenko / Wikipedia

Russia has offered its "Shtorm" nuclear aircraft carrier design to India for purchase, the Defense News reported on July 12, 2016. A diplomat with the Russian Embassy confirmed that a Russian team visiting India last week made the offer. The Deccan Herald confirmed the visit today reporting that the Russian team had met Defense Secretary G Mohan Kumar. MoD is likely to seek opinion of the Navy and undertake a detailed cost-benefit analysis before taking a call on the offer. In March 2016 the Izvestia newspaper had reported that Russia's Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC) would be offering its new multipurpose heavy aircraft carrier design called Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm) for the Indian Aircraft Carrier-2 (IAC-2) project. The Shtorm project was first revealed to the public in June at the Army-2015 show near Moscow, where a scale model of the ship was exhibited. The model featured a split air wing comprising navalized T-50 PAKFAs and MiG-29Ks, as well as jet-powered naval early warning aircraft and Ka-27 naval helicopters. The presence of AEW&CS models on the deck suggested the carrier would be able to operate heavy aircraft, perhaps using a Russian developed EMALS analog. The Shtorm design has a displacement of up to 100,000 tons, is 330 meters long, 40 meters wide, and has a draft of 11 meters. It has a nuclear power plant, although initial plans state a conventional one may also be used. The ship is designed to sail at up to 30 knots (around 55 km/h) and withstand sea state 6-7 (characterized by waves up to 9 meters high).

Navy Seeing Design Finalization by 2016 End

The Hindu reported on January 22, 2016 that design of the carrier would be frozen by the end of 2016. Feasibility study has started and would be completed in 8-10 months leading to a design freeze. Design consultancy will be sought from foreign companies with expertise in carrier design and construction. Five countries have been identified for the purpose — the U.S., Russia, France, the U.K. and Italy — all of which currently operate carriers. With the December 2016 deadline looming, the Shtorm would be a strong contender with an already finalized design.

Design Cooperation with the US

India and the US are exploring the feasibility of co-designing INS Vishal under DTTI. That may prove to be too little too late.

Nuclear Propulsion

EMALS based carrier operations require lot of electrical power, mandating nuclear propulsion (NP). Russia has built and operated nuclear powered heavy cruisers. It earlier helped India develop NP for Arihant class SSBN. It's likely that Russian NP ToT for a super carrier would come with less strings attached than US ToT. Additional details on the IAC-2 (INS Vishal) project are available on my paid (Rs 500/- per year) access site IDP Sentinel.
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