//By Romi Vashisht//

New Delhi: As India turns 65, the country’s quest for mighty sea legs will get a major boost as the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) – INS Vikrant - is launched on August 12.

The launch of the 37,500 tonne floating deck carrier into the sea will mean the climax of the project codenamed P-71 that got the nod of the Government of India in 1999-2000. With the launch of INS Vikrant, India will enter an elite club of nations – currently the US, Russia and France – with the capability of building a warship of this size. The United Kingdom has also built its own aircraft carrier but not of this displacement.


INS Vikrant is scheduled to join the Indian Navy’s fleet by the end of 2018 – when the fourth largest navy in the world will have one fleet each for its eastern and western sea board led by an aircraft carrier. The development is significant as it enables the Indian Navy to maintain a qualitative edge over its neighbor in the east – whose attempts to build an aircraft carrier have turned naught so far.


“Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is the crowning glory of the Indian Maritime Industry,” Indian Navy’s Vice Chief Vice Admiral RK Dhowan said about the Rs. 3,260 crore Project that is currently underway at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd.


The aircraft carrier was initially conceived as a 20,000 ton carrier named Air Defence Ship with an estimated cost of approximately Rs. 1695 crore. However, this Air Defence Ship emerged as a 37,500 ton vessel. However, India’s journey towards the construction of its own aircraft carrier was not an easy one. A major impediment was the procurement of the warship-grade Steel.


“The hurdle proved to be a blessing in disguise as the country was able to indigenously manufacture ABA-grade quality steel, which is six times stronger than the steel used for building other ships. This also helped in bringing down the overall construction cost,” sources said.


Steel Authority of India (SAIL) in collaboration with Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi, Krishna Industries, Nagpur and Bajrang Alloys, Raipur and with inputs from the Hyderabad-based Defence Metallurgical Research laboratory was able to provide the warship-grade steel. Consequently, the first steel for the aircraft carrier was cut in 2005 and subsequently the keel was laid in 2009. Due to the complexity of the project, the construction of the warship has faced many time-overruns. Phase-I of the ship’s  construction was to be concluded by the end of 2010. However, due to delays in receipt of the steel plates and other pre-launch equipments like diesel alternators and gearboxes, the launch of the ship was delayed to 2013.


The aircraft carrier scheduled to be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2018 will be equipped with Mig-29K and home-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy), operating from the 14 degree ski-jump launch using afterburner. The ship will have two takeoff runways and a landing strip with arrester wires. It will boast of a carrying capacity of a maximum of 30 aircrafts with adequate hangar facilities.


The ship will be operated by a crew of about 1450 personnel. The aircraft carrier will be armed with Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR SAM) system, Multi- Function Radar (MFR) and Close In Weapon System (CIWS). The ship will be equipped with the state of the art early Air Warning Radar, Tactical Air Navigational and Direction Finding systems. The carrier would also be having jamming capabilities over the expected Electro Magnetic (EM) environment, along with Carrier Control Approach Radars to aid air operations. Integration of all weapon systems onboard the carrier would be through an indigenous Combat Management System (CMS).


The aircraft carrier is powered by 4 Gas-turbines and can attain speeds in excess of 28 knots. The Ship also has an endurance of 8,000 NM – so giving a shot in the arm to the Indian Maritime Defence.

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