Aircraft carrier Vikrant sets sail for sea trials
India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) Vikrant, the largest warship to be built in the country with specialised cabins for women officers, set sail on Wednesday for crucial sea trials ahead of its planned induction into the Indian Navy in less than a year, the navy announced on Wednesday.
Vikrant has put India in a select league with only the US, the UK, Russia, France and China having the capability to build aircraft carriers.
“Most of the ship’s construction activities have been completed and it has entered the trials phase. Readiness of ship’s propulsion and power generation equipment/systems were tested in harbour as part of basin trials in November 2020,” the navy said in a statement.
India currently operates a solitary aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, bought second-hand from Russia for $2.33 billion. In contrast, China operates two aircraft carriers — CV-16 Liaoning and CV-17 Shandong. It is building a third carrier as it expands its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region.
Designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND), Vikrant has been built at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL).
The warship, with a displacement of 37,500 tonnes, will operate MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31 helicopters, MH-60R multi-role helicopters and the indigenous advanced light helicopters. It has been named after aircraft carrier INS Vikrant operated by the Indian Navy from 1961 to 1997.
“IAC is a shining example of the nation’s quest for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ with more than 76% indigenous content. This is the maiden attempt of the Indian Navy and CSL to indigenously design and build an aircraft carrier… Around 550 Indian firms, including about 100 MSMEs are registered with CSL, and are providing various services for construction of IAC,” the statement said.
After Vikrant is commissioned into the navy, India will have two aircraft carriers --- one each for the western and eastern seaboards and that will mark a quantum jump in maritime capabilities, said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd).
“It’s a huge step forward for indigenous warship building. But the involvement of foreign consultants delayed the IAC project considerably. We have to try and cut down construction time. China can do it in four years. IAC has been in the making for years,” Prakash said. The construction of the aircraft carrier began in 2009.
IAC is 262 metres long, has a beam of 62 metres and a height of 59 metres. It has 14 decks, including five in the superstructure, 2,300 compartments and it can accommodate a crew of 1,700, including women officers.
“The ship has been designed with a very high degree of automation for machinery operation, navigation and survivability, Vikrant has a top speed of around 28 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles,” said navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal.
Vikrant will be the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy. The first was Vikrant (British origin) from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat (British origin) from 1987 to 2016 and INS Vikramaditya (Russian origin) 2013 onwards.
Vikrant’s sea trials were delayed due to the second Covid-19 wave. “During the maiden sailing, the warship’s performance, including hull, main propulsion, power generation and distribution, and auxiliary equipment will be closely watched,” Madhwal said.