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India’s first home built aircraft carrier commences sea trials, to be commissioned next year

India’s first home built aircraft carrier has commenced sea trails, marking the most important milestone before its entry into service with the Navy next year. To be named the INS Vikrant, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) will undergo a series of contractor sea trails in the coming months to validate the functioning of all systems, before being handed over to the Navy for acceptance trials by early next year.

This is the first time that the IAC – the largest ever warship built by India – is going to sea to prove that it can deliver what is has been designed for. Trials involving landing and take off by MiG 29K fighters is expected to take time as other systems, like propulsion and navigation will first be rigorously tested.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who went to Kochi in June to review the construction process, described the sea trials as a `proud moment for India’ and said that the milestone has been achieved regardless of challenges posed by the Covid 19 epidemic in the past year. The warship is expected to be commissioned in the first half of next year and could possibly feature in the Presidential Fleet Review planned in 2022. The accommodation on the carrier has been specially designed to ensure that women officers can also serve on the warship.

While the carrier had been in plans for decades, work on the ship started in February 2009, with the keel laying at Cochin Shipyards Limited (CSL). The project went through a series of delays and price escalations, given that this was the first ever such effort undertaken domestically. Foreign technology partners had been roped in during the construction process, including from Russia who helped with the aviation complex.

India has joined a select league of nations, which includes the US, Russia, France, UK and China that have designed and constructed their own aircraft carriers. The Vikrant will be India’s second operational carrier along with INS Vikramaditya that was bought from Russia. The Navy desires a third indigenously built aircraft carrier as well but the proposal has not yet found favour with the Department of Military Affairs (DMA).

The 37,500 ton ship will operate MiG-29K fighter aircraft, Kamov-31 Air Early Warning Helicopters, MH-60R multi-role helicopter and the indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters. The defence ministry has said that the IAC has 76 per cent indigenous content – from design to steel used in construction to key weapons and sensors.

Salient Points:

  • In the works since 2009, to be commissioned in 2022
  • IAC is: 262 m long, 62 m at the widest part and height of 59 m
  • Has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers
  • Top speed of around 28 knots and cruising speed of 18 knots
  • Endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles
  • 550 Indian firms including about 100 MSMEs worked with Cochin Shipyard Limited on the construction
  • Will operate MiG-29K fighter aircraft, Kamov-31 Air Early Warning Helicopters, MH-60R multi-role helicopter and the indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters.

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