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INS Vikrant finishes sea trials, to be delivered to navy soon


India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1), INS Vikrant, successfully completed the fourth and final phase of sea trials, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Sunday.

During this outing, the navy carried out integrated trials of most of the equipment and systems onboard the 44,000-tonne carrier, including critical Aviation Facilities Complex equipment, which controls the operations of aircraft from the aircraft carrier.

“The ship’s delivery is being targeted in end-July 22, followed by commissioning of [INS Vikrant] in August 22 to commemorate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav,’” the MoD stated.

INS Vikrant will complement the INS Vikramaditya, currently the navy’s lone carrier, which was acquired from Russia in 2013. The indigenous carrier will be the navy’s flagship.

According to the MoD, “The indigenous design and construction of the [IAC-1] by the Indian Navy and Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) is a shining example in the nation’s quest for ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India Initiative,’ with more than 76 per cent indigenous content.”

This has grown the country’s indigenous shipbuilding capabilities, and developed a large number of ancillary industries. “[It has] provided employment opportunities for over 2,000 CSL workers and 12,000 employees in ancillary industries,” said the MoD.

The IAC-1, which is being delivered vastly late and over-budget, embarked on its maiden sea trials last August. This was followed by the second and third phases of sea trials in October 21 and January 22 respectively.

During these multiple trials, CSL and the navy carried out endurance testing of propulsion machinery, electrical and electronic suites, deck machinery, life-saving appliances and the ship’s navigation and communication systems.

However, the full integration and trials of the Aviation Facilities Complex, which controls the operations of the carrier’s MiG-29K/KUB fighter aircraft, will be carried out by the navy only after the warship’s commissioning.

With INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant in service, the MoD will have to make a critical decision about whether to go ahead with constructing a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2).

Former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, before his death in a helicopter crash last December, had openly questioned the enormous expense – estimated at about Rs 50,000 crore — on a third carrier. The Indian Air Force (IAF) too has opposed IAC-2, arguing that it can provide air support more effectively from IAF bases ashore.

However, former navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, has not minced his words in defending the need for IAC-2. “As a navy, we are absolutely clear about the need for a third carrier. Air operations are absolutely integral to naval operations, so air power at sea is absolutely required,” Singh said on the eve of Navy Day last December.

“Navies are all about reach and sustenance. For an aspirational country like India, which wants to become a $5-trillion economy, you have to be able to (project power) outwards. We cannot be a navy that is tethered to the shore,” Karambir Singh said.

He also revealed that the MiG-29K/KUB fighters, 45 of which were acquired to operate from INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya, would be replaced by the new Multi-Role Carrier Based Fighter (MRCBF) that is currently being tendered.

The navy’s requirement of 57 MRCBFs could be acquired alongside the IAF’s separate procurement of 114 medium fighters, for which a tender is expected soon.

With the Defence R&D Organisation’s (DRDO’s) confidence high after its success with the Tejas fighter, it intends to offer an indigenous rival to the MRCBF.

Singh revealed last December: “A new development has been the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), which the DRDO has offered us. If that happens, we will have an indigenous deck-based fighter for the navy.”

INS Vikrant is 262 metres long, 62 metres wide and 59 metres high including the superstructure. It has 14 deck levels, including five in the superstructure, says the navy.

For normal operations, the Vikrant cruises at 18 knots (33 kmph), a speed at which it has an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles (13,800 kilometres). Italian shipbuilder, Fincantieri, provided consultancy for the propulsion system.

The ship, which is designed for a crew of 1,700, has over 2,300 compartments. These include specialised cabins to accommodate women officers. There is a high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation and survivability.

Originally planned to be built with imported steel, the DRDO and Steel Authority of India (SAIL) developed and manufactured indigenous warship-grade steel. As a result, the Vikrant is built from SAIL’s DMR 249A and B grade steel.

Raw materials that have gone into INS Vikrant include 23,000 tonnes of steel, 2,500 km of electrical cable, 150 kilometres of pipes, 2,000 valves, as well as finished products such as anchor capstans, rigid hull boats, galley equipment, air conditioning and refrigeration plants, steering gear, over 150 pumps and motors, communication equipment and the ship’s combat network systems.

Over 50 large Indian manufacturers have been directly involved in this project.

The new warship

262 metres long, 62 m wide, 59 m high, including the superstructure

has 14 deck levels, including five in the superstructure

cruises at 18 knots (33 kmph)

designed for a crew of 1,700

has over 2,300 compartments, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers

has a high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation, survivability




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