Kochi: India`s second aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, docked at Cochin Shipyard Ltd for extensive maintenance work and re-fit, is expected to leave for Mumbai by this month end and hopes to join the fleet around mid-year.
"Viraat, which is part of the western fleet, will head for Mumbai by March end`, Commanding officer Biswajit Dasgupta told reporters who were taken on a tour around the vessel. Refit and maintenance work at kochi is nearly over, he said.
On the ship`s extended life after the re-fit, he said it can operate for some more years. There is no reduction in its capabilities, he said.
Dasgupta said the re-fit was in two phases. The first began at CSL, when it arrived in November 2012. `Essential repairs are going on. There are some more repairs to be done at Mumbai. We will start operating by middle of the year`, he said, adding repairs on underwater hull, some machinery work and many minor jobs have been completed.
To a query, he said `it is not necessary that every re-fit would have modernisation. There is no major modernisation as of now here, with minor upgrades to be held at Mumbai.
On the British era vessel and the ageing Sea Harriers, he said `Yes platforms are getting old. Sea Harriers are ageing and slowly old ones will be phased out`.
On major exercises planned, he said `we cannot say we are going to participate in any bilateral exercise as of now`.
To a query on INS Vikramaditya which was getting ready in Russia, he said the ship was slightly delayed. `There have been some delays. We hope she would join in a year`.
With 1200 officers and men, Viraat is a floating base and is like a mini city complete with attendant logistics infrastructure, libraries, gymnasiums, onboard ATM counter, a TV and video studio, a full fledged hospital and dental centre.
The fixed wing aircraft onboard are Sea Harrier fighters of INAS 300 squadron, popularly called `White Tigers`. These are fighter aircraft capable of Vertical/short take off and landing and have been recently upgraded.
Rotary wing aircraft include Sea King Mk 42, Sea King Mk 42 C, Advanced Light Helicopter, Kamov and Chetak. While the ship has an integral fleet of Chetak helicopters, squadrons of Sea Harriers, Sea Kings and Kamovs are embarked for deployment.
Commander OP Singh,in charge of Air Operations,said the ship can carry 22 aircraft and helicopters depending on the role it plays. Maintenance work on the 227 metres flight deck is presently going on.