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Vineet R asked: What is the role of a Helicopter Carrier in an Aircraft Carrier Battle Group?

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  • Gp Capt (Dr.) Rajiv Kumar Narang (Retd.) replies: A helicopter carrier is an aircraft carrier whose primary aim is to operate helicopters for amphibious or seaborne operations. It may have full length flight deck for helicopters like HMS Ocean or partial flight deck like Russian Navy’s Moskva class ships. In addition, some ships have a Landing Platform Docks (LPD) at the aft of the ship as in Indian Naval Ship (INS) Jalashwa.

    The advent of vertical take-off fighters such as Sea Harriers and the F-35 fighter aircraft enabled them to operate from Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) carriers. The STOVL carriers have a flight deck on which both STOVL fighters and helicopters operate. The US Navy has Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) and Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) amphibious Ships. The LHDs are landing ships for Helicopters while LHAs are for helicopters and tilt rotor aircraft. The US LHAs also carry F-35 fighter aircraft.

    The aircraft carrier with its fighter fleet provides deep strike, air defence and sea control capabilities. The aircraft carrier being a high value asset, is defended by a fleet of specialist ships. A pure helicopter carrier is traditionally not a part of the aircraft carrier battle group. A helicopter carrier often employs its on-board helicopters for variety of roles including seaborne assault, anti-submarine, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), electronic warfare (EW) and search and rescue (SAR) roles. The helicopters significantly enhance the rate of deployment of marines to effect battle ashore in amphibious operations.

    Posted on January 16, 2024

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.