Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 4
In a significant step towards making military equipment within India, the country’s first indigenously made aircraft carrier INS Vikrant set out on its maiden sea trials on Wednesday.
The 44,000-tonne carrier has been built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard in Kochi, Kerala. The trials will be conducted over an extensive period under all conditions before the warship is accepted as “proven at sea”. Built at a cost of Rs 23,000 crore, the carrier is expected to be fully operational by the second half of next year.
The Navy will accept the warship and then conduct aviation trials, which will include take-off and landing of Russian MiG 29K fighter jets. The warship today saw the Navy’s Sea King helicopters doing a deck landing. It has been designed by Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design.
The development comes at a time when India and China are in a race to expand their naval strength. China has two operational and two under-construction aircraft carriers and plans half-a-dozen more by 2030.
India has one operational carrier, INS Vikramaditya, purchased from Russia, and the upcoming Vikrant. The plans for the third carrier haven’t been okayed yet.
Vikrant is the largest and most complex warship ever to be designed and built in India. The country now joins a select group of nations having niche capability to indigenously design, build and integrate a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier. The US, UK, Russia, Italy, France and Japan have such capacities.
South Korea too is pursuing a carrier programme.
The warship has a top speed of 28 knots (52 kmph) and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles (13,650 km). Around 550 Indian firms, including about 100 MSMEs, have been providing various services for the construction of the warship. It has 14 decks with 2,300 compartments for a crew of around 1,700. The carrier was scheduled to join the fleet in December 2018, but faced delays. The keel was laid in 2009 and it was set out at sea in 2013. The integration of the aviation complex on board and its mating with other sensors was the key. The propulsion and the complexity of making such warship added to the delays, which have led to the cost escalating beyond the originally sanctioned amount of Rs 19,341 crore.
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