The 45,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, the largest Indian aircraft carrier procured from Russia at a cost of $2.3 million, is still to get a close-in weapon system (CIWS) and hence will not be fully operational. For the aircraft carrier that stands nearly 23-deck tall, CIWS is critical if the vessel has to be deployed in forward areas, said Navy sources.
Vice admiral Anil Chopra, flag officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Naval Command, said, “A close-in weapon system will be fitted when the carrier goes for a refit, which can happen sooner or later.”
INS Vikramaditya is scheduled to go for a routine refit at the Cochin Shipyard next year, and it is expected the Barak–II close-in weapon system will be fitted in the carrier, said Navy sources. It is particularly critical considering the vessels capability to carry 34 aircrafts, including 24 MiG 29 K/KUB fighter crafts, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, Chetaks and Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH).
Navy sources also said there are plans to induct the naval version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) onboard INS Vikramaditya, and trials are being carried out at the naval base in Karwar where INS Vikramaditya is currently docked.
The 285m-long Vikramaditya has an extended flight deck and a full runway with a ski jump and arrestor wires. It has been fitted with modern communication systems, a protective coating, a telephone exchange, pumps, hygiene and galley equipment, lifts and is manned by 110 officers and 1,500 sailors.
The vessel has new engines, boilers, generators, electrical machinery, communication systems and distillation plants, which will ensure the vessel can be used for the next 30 years, said sources.
In 2004, India had inked a contract with Russia to deliver a refurbished INS Vikramaditya at a cost of US $974 million. But in 2008, Russia said they had underestimated the scale and cost modernising the vessel. On March 12, 2010, India inked a fresh deal to deliver INS Vikramaditya at US $2.3 million.
But the vessel hit a glitch in 2012 when during high-speed sea trials, seven of the eight steam boilers failed because of faulty insulation. On the Indian Navy’s insistence, the Russian shipyard fixed the glitch, allowing the ship to reach a top speed of 32 knots.
In November 2013, the carrier, which was formerly named Admiral Gorshkov, once again underwent stringent sea and aviation trials and met all the naval staff qualitative requirements after which it was handed over to the Indian Navy.
* Displacement – 45,400 tonne
* Length - 285 m
* Max Beam – 60 m
* Max Speed – 32 knots
* Distance it can cover at 18 knots – 7,000 nautical miles
* Can operate – 24 MiG 29 K/KUB fighter crafts
* Has sailed – 100 days with carrier borne flying
* Commanded by – Captain Suraj Berry, VSM