INS Vikrant – India’s new giant in the seas

The launch of first indigenously built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is a significant achievement for India.

Zee Media Bureau/ Ajith Vijay Kumar

New Delhi: Although it will be another four years before INS Vikrant gets fighting fit, the launch of first indigenously built aircraft carrier is a significant achievement for India.

Naval designers and engineers at Cochin Shipyard matched the best in the world by successfully executing India’s indigenous aircraft carrier programme. Until now, only Russia, US, France and Britain had the ability to design and operate aircraft carriers.

More importantly, INS Vikrant is a crucial step forward for Indian Navy in its endeavour to operate carrier battle groups (CBGs) to assert its dominant role in the Indian Ocean.

Carrying fighters and other aircraft, armed with latest weaponry, the aircraft carrier when accompanied by frigates, destroyers, submarines and logistics ships, forms the CBG that are considered the ultimate assertion of military power.

The US is the world leader in maintaining CBGs or Carrier Strike Groups with 11 such formations. Others countries like Russia, Britain or France are not actively building CBGs. However, China, with the accusation of aircraft carrier Liaoning from Ukraine, is actively pursuing the creation of a CBG.

INS Vikrant – Design

Given the strict control regimens maintained by the countries having advanced defence production capabilities, the Directorate of Naval Design, Indian Navy’s design organization and the design team of CSL took it upon themselves to design a modern aircraft suited to India’s requirement.

Problems started when import of warship grade steel turned out to be a difficult task. India responded the way it knows best – work to create the required quality of steel indigenously.

National Metallurgical Research Laboratory and other agencies worked closely with the Steel Authority of India Ltd to develop special steel for the ship at Bhilai Steel Plant.

The 263 metre-long ship is powered with four gas turbines generating 88 MW of power – enough to light up Kochi city. The floating mammoths can achieve a top speed of 30 knots and will host a crew of 160 officers and 1,400 sailors.

Battle muscle

With two take-off runways and a landing strip equipped with three arrester wires on its 2.5-acre flight deck and hangars, the ship has been designed to carry 12 MiG-29Ks, eight Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and 10 anti-submarine and reconnaissance helicopters like Kamov 31 advanced early warning choppers. INS Vikrant can handle 60 to 80 sorties a day.

Heavier aircraft like Sukhois can’t operate from the ship as they need steam catapults to get the required lift to fly out as against the ski-ramp flight deck of Vikrant. As per reports, the next aircraft carrier – 65,000 tonne displacement - that will be built indigenously will feature a catapult powered flight deck.

The ship will be equipped with surface-to-air missiles and close-in weapons systems and other modern weapons.

What Next

INS Vikrant would now be re-docked for completion of rest of the work including the flight deck. Vice Chief of Navy Admiral Robin Dhowan was quoted as saying that about 83% of the fabrication work and 75% of the construction work is over when the ship goes into water.

Its propulsion would be set to trials in 2016, followed by basin trials in 2017. Weapon trials would be conducted by the Navy after its handing over in 2018.

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