The delay in delivering an indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) will adversely impact the Indian Navy, with one of its two carriers in the process of being decommissioned, the government auditor has pointed out.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, in a report tabled in Parliament this week, also pointed out that there was “continuing disagreement over project timelines between the Indian Navy and Cochin Shipyard Limited (where the IAC is being fitted out), with realistic dates for delivery yet to be worked out.”
The delay has also resulted in the cost escalating beyond the originally sanctioned Rs. 19,341 crore, the report said, adding that the overall physical progress of the carrier was not assessable.
The shipyard says the carrier will be delivered in 2023, five years behind schedule. With INS Viraat in the process of being decommissioned -- she set out on her farewell voyage from Mumbai to Kochi earlier this week -- India will be left with only one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya against its requirement of at least two to be deployed on the western and eastern seaboards.
“While the Indian Navy envisions ready combat availability of two aircraft carriers at any given time, with INS Vikramaditya in service and INS Viraat likely to be decommissioned in 2016-17, continuous shifting of timelines of delivery of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier will adversely impact naval capabilities,” the CAG report said.
The CAG was, perhaps, unaware of the timeline for INS Viraat de-comissioning.
The auditor has said that the Cochin Shipyard Limited and the Indian Navy were not operating in sync.
“The shipyard projected that delivery schedule of the aircraft carrier would be in 2023, against December 2018 as per approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The Indian Navy and the shipyard were not operating in sync, which was reflected in lack of agreement on project timelines as well as lack of review of project timelines, for arriving at a realistic delivery date,” the CAG said.
Factors like shortage of requisite steel delayed the commencement of fabricating the hull, while late receipt of critical equipment like diesel alternators and gearboxes delayed the launching of the ship.
The report also said delayed constitution of the Empowered Apex Committee meant the project was not being monitored at the apex level and the Steering Committee remained dysfunctional between October 2007 to August 2013, which was almost the entire duration of Phase-I of the project.
There was also a shortfall in the meetings of the Project Management Board and other project monitoring mechanisms.
“Neither the ministry nor the shipyard could assess the physical state of construction of the ship as the ministry failed to incorporate essential formats for progress reporting in the contracts,” the CAG said.
The report also said that the MiG-29K aircraft that will operate from the IAC continues to face operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system.
The compatibility of the aircraft for deck operations is also still to be fully proved.
The report said as a result of issues facing the MiG-29K, the delayed delivery of the IAC would reduce the service life of the jets.