India’s Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, INS Vikrant, To Be Delivered By 2021
India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, INS Vikrant, will be delivered to the Indian Navy by 2021, Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, said on Saturday. “India’s first Indian Aircraft Carrier Vikrant is undergoing outfitting at Kochi Shipyard Limited. Harbour acceptance trials are in progress and sea acceptance trial of this will commence in the latter half of this year,” the Navy Chief said.
He added that “The Aircraft Carrier will be delivered to the Navy by the year 2021.”
The Vikrant was supposed to commence sea trials already in 2017 with a previous commissioning date set for 2018. Originally, the carrier was slated for delivery in 2014 and set to be commissioned in 2016. Yet, the IAC program faced delays for various reasons as I explained previously:
Construction of the carrier was delayed multiple times over the last few years primarily due to hold-ups in procurement including contractual disputes with Russia’s Rosoboronexport over the construction of the carrier’s aviation complex.
The program has also been plagued by cost overruns with the carrier, as of now, costing as much as $4 billion more than originally budgeted. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi allocated an extra $3 billion to the IAC program in 2014 to speed up construction of the Vikrant.
The 40,000-ton Vikrant operates a ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch systems for launching aircraft. “[The] STOBAR system imposes limits on the operational range and armament of aircraft operating from the carrier given that ski-jump takeoff and arrested carrier landings necessitate a high thrust-to-weight ratio for successful take-offs and can only be conducted with lightweight aircraft,” I explained elsewhere.
The IAC program will eventually field two ships in the Vikrant-class – the INS Vikrant as the lead ship and her sister, the INS Vishal. However, while the Vikrant will be completed as a 40,000 ton design with ski-ramp flight deck, it was announced in August of 2012 that the Vishal will sport a more conventional “flat top” deck arrangement with catapult launching facilities (known as “CATOBAR” = “Catapult-Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery”). With this design initiative, the Indian Navy will be allowed to launch larger and heavier fixed-wing aircraft such as Airborne Early Warning (AEW) types which are not possible with the limited STOBAR configuration – drastically broadening the Indian Navy’s power in local waters (particularly in regards to neighboring Pakistan and Pacific-Asian powerhouse China). The changes to the Vishal will make it a 65,000-ton vessel with an all-new flight deck.
The design and construction of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier was sanctioned by the government in January 2003. The keel of the ship was laid on 28 Feb 2009 by Shri AK Antony. Vikrant marks a special feather in indigenous defence capabilities- this being the first ever aircraft carrier to be designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy, the first warship to be built by Cochin Shipyard Limited and the first warship to be built entirely using indigenously produced steel. The construction of the ship is a truly pan Indian effort with active participation of private and public enterprises. The steel has come from SAIL’s plants in Raurkela in Orissa, Bokaro in Jharkand and Bhilai in Chattisgarh; the Main Switch Board, steering gear and water tight hatches have been manufactured by Larsen and Toubro in its plants in Mumbai and Talegaon; the high capacity air conditioning and refrigeration systems have been manufactured in Kirloskar’s plants in Pune; most pumps have been supplied by Best and Crompton, Chennai; Bharat Heavy Engineering Limited (BHEL) is supplying the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS); the massive gear box is supplied by Elecon in Gujarat; the tens of thousands of electrical cable is supplied by Nicco industries in Kokatta; Kolkatta is also where the ship’s anchor chain cable is manufactured.
Vikrant will be capable of operating an aircraft mix of the Russian MiG-29K and LCA (Navy) fighters being developed indigenously by HAL. Its helicopter component will include the Kamov 31 and the indigenously developed ALH helicopters. The ship’s ability to sense and control a large air space around it will be enabled by modern C/D band Early Air Warning Radar, V/UHF Tactical Air Navigational and Direction Finding systems, jamming capabilities over the expected Electro Magnetic (EM) environment and Carrier Control Approach Radars to aid air operations. Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR SAM) systems with Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and Close- In Weapon System (CIWS) will form the protective suite of the ship. All weapon systems onboard the carrier will be integrated through an indigenous Combat Management System (CMS), being manufactured by Tata Power systems. The ship’s integration with Navy’s Network Centric Operations will provide force multiplication.
As of this writing (2012), the Vikrant will be defensed by 4 x 76mm Otobreda dual-purpose cannons and backed by several surface-to-air missile emplacements . For short-ranged work against incoming aircraft or missiles, a digitally-controlled Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) will be installed.
A Selex RAN-40L L-band early warning radar system will be part of the defensive network of sensor and systems processing.
Dimensionally, the INS Vikrant will sport a running length of 860 feet with a beam of 200 feet and a draught of 28 feet. She will be conventionally-powered by 4 x General Electric LM2500+ series gas turbines developing power to two shafts. Maximum speed in ideal conditions is estimated at 28 knots with an operational range out to 7,500 miles. Her crew complement will consist of 1,400 officers, sailors, airmen and mechanics.
Vikrant will now enter the second phase of construction which will see the outfitting of the ship, fitment of various weapons and sensors, integration of the gigantic propulsion system and integration of the aircraft complex (with the assistance of M/s NDB of Russia). The ship will then undergo extensive trials before she is handed over to the Indian Navy by around 2020-21.