As navy preps for commissioning Vikrant on Sept 2, a pitch for a second IAC

Updated on Aug 25, 2022 10:43 PM IST

Indian Navy vice chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said IAC Vikrant will strengthen India’s deterrence against China and promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region.

Vikrant, which has an indigenous content of 76%, will operate an air wing consisting of 30 aircraft. (HT Photo/Rahul Singh)
Vikrant, which has an indigenous content of 76%, will operate an air wing consisting of 30 aircraft. (HT Photo/Rahul Singh)
ByRahul Singh

NEW DELHI: Critical flight trials will be conducted on board indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) Vikrant from November with the warship expected to be fully operational and integrated with its air wing by the middle of next year, navy vice chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said on Thursday.

He added that the navy is pushing a case for a second aircraft carrier that can be built faster than Vikrant by tapping into the ship-building experience and expertise acquired with the first carrier.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will commission Vikrant into the navy on September 2 in Kochi where it was built.

Vikrant will strengthen India’s deterrence against China, the navy vice chief said. “It will provide the required deterrence against the growing strength of the neighbour. It will promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region.”

The flight trials will involve the Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter jets that will use the ski-jump to takeoff from Vikrant and will be recovered by arrestor wires or what is known as STOBAR (short takeoff but arrested recovery) in navy parlance.

Vikrant hasn’t operated a fighter jet from its flight deck thus far.

Twelve MiG-29Ks are likely to be deployed on Vikrant and it will operate a new deck-based fighter that the navy is looking to buy as an interim measure to meet its requirements before the indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) is ready in a few years, Ghormade said. The navy’s existing aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya operates MiG-29K fighters.

Guard of honour rehearsal for PM Narendra Modi ahead of his arrival in Kochi on Sept 2 to commission Vikrant into the navy (HT Photo/Rahul Singh)
Guard of honour rehearsal for PM Narendra Modi ahead of his arrival in Kochi on Sept 2 to commission Vikrant into the navy (HT Photo/Rahul Singh)

“Vikrant was designed for the MiG-29K. TEDBF will be the final aircraft for which we are working with the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Agency. We will make it a success. Also, evaluation is underway to select the right deck-based fighter for the navy. It is only an interim arrangement,” he said.

He added that TEDBF could be ready in five to seven years.

India plans to buy 26 new fighters for Vikrant through a government-to-government deal to meet the navy’s requirements, with US firm Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet competing with French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M for the order.

Vikrant, which has an indigenous content of 76%, will operate an air wing consisting of 30 aircraft including the new fighters, MiG-29Ks, Kamov-31 choppers, MH-60R multi-role helicopters and advanced light helicopters.

Asked to comment on the status of IAC-2, Ghormade said the warship-building ecosystem was ready for a second India-made carrier.

“We have learnt a lot. The capability to build IAC-2 exists. It is being discussed with the government and the defence ministry. We will be able to cut down construction time when the approval comes and make it fully indigenous,” he said.

The 45,000-tonne Vikrant has been built at Cochin Shipyard at a cost of 20,000 crore. Only the US, the UK, Russia, France and China have the capability to build aircraft carriers. It has been named after aircraft carrier INS Vikrant operated by the navy from 1961 to 1997.

IAC-2 can be built faster than Vikrant, said Cochin Shipyard chairman Madhu S Nair. “We are ready. By early 2024, a new large dry dock will be ready at the shipyard for constructing big platforms.”

Vikrant’s construction began in 2009.

India currently operates a solitary aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, bought second-hand from Russia for $2.33 billion. The navy has been arguing it needs three such floating airfields given its vast area of interest.

“Building Vikrant has been a good learning experience. It will be meaningful only if we follow it up with a second indigenous aircraft carrier. Otherwise, the skill and expertise that we have acquired will die out, and it will be a huge national loss,” former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said on July 28 when Cochin Shipyard formally handed over Vikrant to the navy.

Vikrant will be the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy --- first Vikrant (British origin) from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat (British origin) from 1987 to 2016 and INS Vikramaditya 2013 onwards.

Vikrant is 262 metres long, has a height of 61 metres (keel to mast) and its flight deck measures 12,500 square metres (equivalent to 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. It has an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 28 knots, 2,300 compartments and can carry a crew of 1,600.

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