Indian Navy will have its first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) by the end of 2021. IAC Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tons, is being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited.
The long-delayed warship was scheduled to be ready by the end of 2018, but due to delay in procuring multiple equipment from Russia, the delivery date has been extended.
Presently, Indian Navy is operating with a single aircraft carrier—INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-tonne carrier bought from Russia.
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“Starting of gas turbines will take place in the third quarter of this year. Basic trials will be conducted in February-March next year and the contractor sea trials after that. It will be delivered to the Navy in 2021,” said Vice Admiral A.K. Saxena, Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition in the Indian Navy.
Vice admiral Saxena was speaking at a curtain raiser event for an upcoming seminar on ‘nation building through shipbuilding’, being jointly organised by the Navy and industry body FICCI later this month.
"Flight trials will start after the delivery," Vice Admiral Saxena clarified.
Aviation trials which are expected to commence by February 2021 will take about two years and the carrier is expected to be commissioned into the Navy in early 2023, another Navy officer said.
With this, India will join the elite group of indigenous built aircraft carrier. At present, only the US, Russia, Britain and France have capacity to design and build aircraft carriers of 40,000 tonnes and heavier.
With its length of 260 meters, the warship would have two take-off runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires capable of operating a STOBAR (short take off but arrested delivery) aircraft and a range of helicopters. Twenty MiG 29K fighter jets and 10 helicopters will be deployed on the aircraft carrier. Earlier Navy had plans to put indigenous naval version of Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, on the warship, but the programme was dumped after the fighter jet failed to meet the carrier capability required by the Indian Navy. Now, Navy will have to depend on Russian made MiG-29K for its warship.
According to a naval official, the design of IAC-1, with the cost of Rs 3,500 crore, was initially approved by the ministry of defence in 2003, but the construction began only in 2005 in Cochin Shipyard. IAC was scheduled to be launched in water by 2010, but it could be launched only in August 2013, after three years of delays.
However, there is not much progress on the proposed Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-II which is on the drawing board.
"Its requirement is by and large accepted. At the moment it is about availability of finance versus the requirements. It is still under deliberation,” vice admiral Saxena added.
He also said that India needed to expand its capability in building world class warships to merchant vessels.
FICCI Advisor Commodore Sujeet Samaddar N.M. (Retired) said that going by the world history, no nation has achieved great power status unless it has an indigenous shipbuilding capability. Shipbuilding has a direct relationship with nation building, he said.
“Shipbuilding leads to job creation and this is the key need for our country. There is no other industry with a higher multiple of job creation than the shipbuilding industry. Most estimates quote that one job in a shipyard results in 60-65 jobs outside in direct employment,” he said, adding generation of indirect jobs is far higher.