INS Vikrant Indigenous Aircraft Carrier
The country’s First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, INS Vikrant, will not be ready to go to war anytime before 2020 even if it’s handed over to the Navy in 2018, as is now scheduled.
The 40,000 tonne carrier will have to undergo extensive weapon and aviation trials, which will include supersonic fighters taking off from its angled ski – jump and landing back on the flight deck with the help of “arrestor” wires, before being declared fully – operational, said sources.
But this does not detract from the fact that India is steadily, albeit slowly, building a powerful three – dimensional blue – water Navy for the future at a projected cost upwards of ₹ 3 lakh crore over the next 15 years.
Even though INS Vikrant’s progress has been excruciatingly slow, it does propel India into the exclusive club of only four nations – the US, Russia, the UK and France — that can build carriers of this size. China did induct a carrier, the 65,000 tonne Liaoning, last September but it was purchased in a half – ready state from Ukraine in 1998.
“The need for a strong and vigilant Navy to defend our mainland, island territories, off – shore assets, EEZ and maintaining our sea lanes of communication needs no emphasis,” said defence minister A K Antony, at the “launch” ceremony of INS Vikrant at the Cochin Shipyard on Monday.
Then, of course, India needs to safeguard it primary area of geo – political interest stretching from Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait and beyond as well as effectively counter the expanding Chinese Navy’s hunt for “strategic space” in the Indian Ocean Region ( IOR ).
The Navy, which is “committed” to supporting “indigenization” as a “strategic core competency”, has its plans well chalked-out. “Out of the 47 warships and submarines currently on order, 46 are being built in Indian shipyards,” said Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi.
But, despite the significant milestone of nuclear submarine INS Arihant’s atomic reactor going “critical” on Saturday, the Navy’s depleting fleet of 14 aging conventional diesel – electric submarines remains a big source of worry.
The ongoing over ₹ 23,000 crore Scorpene submarine construction project at Mazagon Docks is running four years behind the original 2012 – 2017 induction deadline. Moreover, the government has failed to kick start the long-pending second project for six new – generation stealth submarines with both land – attack missile capabilities and air – independent propulsion for greater endurance at a cost of over ₹ 50,000 crore. Though Antony on Monday said the project was now in the Cabinet Committee on Security ( CCS ) for approval, the first submarine under it can roll out only by 2022 at the earliest.
The 260 metre long INS Vikrant itself will take till 2020 to become battle – worthy. The Navy is all gung – ho about the induction of the 44,570 tonne INS Vikramaditya, the Admiral Gorshkov carrier now undergoing sea trials after the $2.33 billion refit in Russia, by the year end. The country’s solitary carrier at present, the 28,000 tonne INS Viraat, meanwhile continues to soldier on despite being 54 year old.
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