The navy is planning to operate its lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which has already completed 50 years of service, for another decade, a top official said in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) Rear Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla said that INS Viraat, which celebrated its golden jubilee year in 2009, will be operated till 2020.
However, he said this will be possible only if its ageing Sea Harrier fighter aircraft fleet is available for ship-borne operations.
Viraat, a Centaur class aircraft carrier of British origin, had served for 28 years from 1959 as HMS Hermes in the Royal British Navy before it was transferred to India in 1987.
In the Indian Navy, Viraat has completed nearly 23 years of its operational life and is one of the oldest aircraft carriers in naval operation at present.
Its fighter aircraft complement is the British-origin Sea Harrier, about 30 of which were inducted into the Indian Navy in 1983. The navy has lost about 20 of these aircraft in crashes over the years and about 10 are left in service now.
Interestingly, the navy's Republic Day parade tableau this year will feature the Viraat and the naval air wing's new acquisition, the Russian-made MiG-29K carrier-borne fighter jets, Chawla said.
India is also building an Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at the Cochin Shipyard, which is expected to be launched in the waters later this year or early next year. "From launch to get the IAC operational, it could take about four to five years," he said.
The navy plans to have the IAC, to be called INS Vikrant, ready for operations by 2014-15, Chawla said, adding that the naval variant of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) would be the fighter jet for the 40,000-tonne IAC.
With India also scheduled to get delivery of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier from Russia by late 2012 or early 2013, the navy is hoping to operate two aircraft carriers by the middle of this decade.
Karwar naval facility in Karnataka is expected to be the home base for Admiral Gorshkov, which was purchased by India in 2004 and rechristened INS Vikramaditya.
The refit of Gorshkov, for which India agreed to pay $2.34 billion in 2009 instead of the earlier agreed price of $1.5-billion, is in progress at the Sevmash shipyard in Russia.
India has bought 16 MiG-2Ks for Gorshkov and the first lot of the fighter jets has been delivered. These fighter jets are at present operating out of Goa. There are plans for buying 29 more of these aircraft for the navy soon.
The Republic Day parade tableau will also feature photographs of HMS Trincomalee, the oldest ship afloat in the world as of today. Tricomalee was built at the Bombay Dockyard in 1817 and is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year.