The Arabian Sea has turned into a stage for the Indian Navy to display its maritime power by showcasing a dual-aircraft carrier operation and deploying a squadron of aircraft.

The exercise is reportedly a significant accomplishment and highlights how the Indian Navy is one of the few security providers in the world that can carry out a multi-carrier operation.

The two aircraft carriers — INS Vikramaditya and the Indian-made INS Vikrant — were the main showpieces in the operation that took place last week. More than 35 aircraft and an array of surface ships and submarines were also deployed, as per a press release from the country's Ministry of Defense.

"This impressive display of naval strength by the Indian Navy certainly shows its decades-long expertise in operating aircraft carriers," Sameer Patil, author and senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, told International Business Times.

Patil believes the dual aircraft carrier exercise shows the "operational preparedness" of the Indian Navy to meet security needs.

"The Navy has increasingly positioned itself as the 'Net Security Provider' and stepped up its naval profile in the Indo-Pacific region in recent years," Patil continued. "This dual aircraft carrier exercise neatly aligns with this expanded profile and provides an opportunity for the Navy to demonstrate its operational preparedness."

Abhijit Singh, former naval officer and current head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the
Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, called the exercise a "significant accomplishment" and pointed out that India has operated two aircraft carriers on two different occasions in the past as well.

"While the country has operated two aircraft carriers earlier — in the 1990s and 2010s — the carrier operations then were not seemingly on the scale and tempo witnessed last week. Its tactical utility apart, the joint operation last week, appears to have had a political objective," Singh told IBT.

He also believes the operation sends a clear message to the world.

"The Indian navy was apparently attempting 'armed suasion' — an expression coined and popularized by military strategist Edward Luttwak — deploying carrier forces to shape the strategic calculus of adversaries and friends. Evidently, the operation's strategic aim was to deter aggressive moves by hostile powers and rally the support of friends. That the Indian navy chose to hold the joint drills in the Arabian Sea indicates that the eastern Indian Ocean remains the focal point of Indian interest in the Indo-Pacific region," Singh continued.

Vikramaditya and Vikrant, the two mobile bases, can be positioned anywhere and allows for "timely response to emerging threats," the Ministry of Defence said in its statement.

The Russian-made Vikramaditya went into service in 2013 while Vikrant, the first carrier made in India, was commissioned in September 2022. Using both aircraft carriers together shows the maritime superiority of the Indian Navy.

Only the U.S. has been able to pull off a multi-aircraft carrier operation in recent times while China and the U.K. — both of which also have more than one aircraft carrier — have reportedly not been able to carry out dual-carrier operations.

"This is not a small achievement and underlines that the Indian Navy is one of very few in the world that operates more than one aircraft carrier," Nick Childs, senior fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said, according to CNN.

India's successful performance of the dual-aircraft carrier operation also shows that it could have an added advantage over China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, according to Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"The Indian Navy has had decades-long experience and expertise in aircraft carrier ops and this is probably the key advantage it possesses over the PLA Navy, its key rival in this field, despite the latter's relative advance in its indigenous aircraft carrier program," Koh said, as per CNN.

INS Vikrant
INS Vikrant Reuters