In­dia’s first in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier launched

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Rear Ad­mi­ral (Retd) Sushil Ram­say

The glo­ri­ous mo­ment in the an­nals of In­dia’s in­dige­nous ship­build­ing in­dus­try ar­rived amidst chant­ing of verses from the Vedas, at Cochin Ship­yard Limited (CSL), Kochi on Au­gust 12, 2013, when in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier (IAC) was launched by El­iz­a­beth Antony, wife of De­fence Min­is­ter, A.K. Antony. In keep­ing with the glo­ri­ous tra­di­tion of hon­our­ing its for­mer il­lus­tri­ous war­ships, IAC was ap­pro­pri­ately chris­tened as Vikrant, In­dia’s first air­craft car­rier which was de­com­mis­sioned on Jan­uary 31, 1997. For a path break­ing pro­ject such as IAC no other name would have been ap­pro­pri­ate but the ‘ Vikrant’ which in San­skrit means ‘coura­geous’ or ‘vic­to­ri­ous’.

The tra­di­tional cer­e­mony re­splen­dent with grace­ful pomp and fer­vour was presided over by Antony, and wit­nessed by the Min­is­ter for Ship­ping, G.K. Vasan, Ad­mi­ral D.K. Joshi, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Ad­mi­ral Shekhar Sinha, the Flag Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in­Chief, Western Naval Com­mand, Vice Ad­mi­ral Satish Soni, the Flag Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in-Chief, South­ern Naval Com­mand, Com­modore (Retd) K. Subra­ma­niam, Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, CSL and other of­fi­cials from the Min­istries of De­fence and Ship­ping. Also present on the oc­ca­sion were nu­mer­ous naval of­fi­cers, ship­yard staff and work­ers and the of­fi­cials from the Steel Au­thor­ity of In­dia Limited (SAIL), the man­u­fac­tur­ers of the in­dige­nous warship grade steel.

The for­mi­da­ble pro­file of hull struc­ture, im­pos­ing ramp for short take-off but ar­rested re­cov­ery (STOBAR) of 37,500 tonne­strong Vikrant proudly demon­strated the rare in­dige­nous de­sign and ship­build­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that In­dia has ac­quired on its own. The de­signed length of the ship is 260 m and breadth of 60 m. Over 80 per cent of the struc­ture, con­tain­ing about 2,300 com­part­ments has been fab­ri­cated, over 75 per cent has been erected, all the ma­jor ma­chin­ery, such as the two LM2500 gas tur­bines de­vel­op­ing a to­tal power of 80 MW, the diesel al­ter­na­tors ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing about 24 MW and the main gear box have been fit­ted.

De­fence Min­is­ter de­scribed the oc­ca­sion as mo­men­tous and said, “To­day’s launch­ing of the IAC marks just the first step in a long jour­ney, but at the same time, an im­por­tant one.” He said it was in­deed a proud mo­ment for the coun­try to wit­ness our ef­forts at achiev­ing self-re­liance in the field of warship de­sign and con­struc-

tion, as only a very few ad­vanced coun­tries in the world pos­sess the ca­pa­bil­ity to de­sign and build air­craft car­ri­ers.

Vikrant is the first ever air­craft car­rier to be de­signed by the Direc­torate of Naval De­sign of the In­dian Navy, the first warship to be built by CSL and the first warship to be built en­tirely us­ing in­dige­nously pro­duced steel by SAIL. The con­struc­tion of the ship is a truly pan In­dian ef­fort with ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of pri­vate and pub­lic en­ter­prises. The main switch board, steer­ing gear and wa­ter tight hatches have been man­u­fac­tured by Larsen and Toubro (L&T); the high ca­pac­ity air conditioning and re­frig­er­a­tion sys­tems have been man­u­fac­tured by Kir­loskars; most pumps have been sup­plied by Best and Cromp­ton; Bharat Heavy En­gi­neer­ing Limited is sup­ply­ing the in­te­grated plat­form man­age­ment sys­tem; gear box is sup­plied by Ele­con in Gu­jarat; the tens of thou­sands of elec­tri­cal ca­ble is sup­plied by Nicco in­dus­tries, Kolkata; the ship’s an­chor chain ca­ble is man­u­fac­tured in Kolkata.

Vikrant will be ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing an air­craft mix of the Rus­sian MiG-29K and LCA (Navy) fight­ers be­ing de­vel­oped by Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Ltd (HAL). Its he­li­copter com­po­nent will in­clude the Kamov 31 and the in­dige­nously de­vel­oped ad­vanced light helicopters (ALH). The long range, sur­face to air mis­sile sys­tems with multi-func­tion radar and close-in weapon sys­tem will form the pro­tec­tive suite of the ship.

An in­dige­nous de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of an air­craft car­rier had been in the works of Direc­torate of Naval De­sign since the late 1970s. Ini­tially the pro­ject was obliquely des­ig­nated as the air de­fence ship to thwart pos­si­ble hos­til­ity from the In­dian Air Force. Since the in­duc­tion of INS Vikrant in 1965, In­dian Navy has op­er­ated only the off-the-shelf pro­cured air­craft car­ri­ers duly mod­i­fied and re­fur­bished de­pend­ing upon avail­abil­ity of fixed-wing air­craft to op­er­ate from its decks. In par­al­lel the mis­sion to de­sign and de­velop in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier was re­lent­lessly pur­sued. Phase I launch of re-chris­tened Vikrant has turned a new leaf. Hence­forth, In­dia would not have to look to im­port op­tions, other than col­lab­o­ra­tions and joint ven­ture ar­range­ments for trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy, con­sul­tan­cies in spe­cific ar­eas where ab-ini­tio re­search and de­vel­op­ment would not be cost ef­fec­tive and cause delays. How­ever, the de­pen­dency for the car­rier borne fighter and re­con­nais­sance air­craft, weapon sys­tems, con­trols, aux­il­iary and other niche ar­eas would be unavoid­able.

Vikrant will now en­ter the most vi­tal Phase II of out­fit­ting of the ship, fit­ment of var­i­ous weapons and sen­sors, in­te­gra­tion of the gi­gan­tic propul­sion sys­tem and in­te­gra­tion of the air­craft com­plex, with the as­sis­tance from Nevskii De­sign Bureau, St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia. The ship will then un­dergo ex­ten­sive sea tri­als and the cru­cial avi­a­tion tri­als be­fore she is op­er­a­tionally in­ducted by end 2018. Now it can safely be as­sumed that the im­pon­der­ables in the pro­gramme have been ef­fec­tively over­come. Com­mis­sion­ing of Vikra­ma­ditya by the end of the year should also pro­vide de­sired im­pe­tus in the op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of Vikrant. Two stu­pen­dous achieve­ments ac­com­plished two days apart; Ari­hant get­ting crit­i­cal and launch of Vikrant, both herald­ing grand en­try of In­dia into two elit­ist groups of nu­clear sub­marines and air­craft car­ri­ers; in­deed a mat­ter of national pride.

(Op­po­site page, far left ) A.K. Antony, El­iz­a­beth Antony, the Union Min­is­ter for Ship­ping G.K. Vasan and the Chief of Naval Staff Ad­mi­ral D.K. Joshi, at the launch of the In­dia’s first in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier (IAC), at Kochi on Au­gust 12, 2013; (right top) The De­fence Min­is­ter ad­dress­ing at the launch of the IAC. (right bot­tom) A. K. Antony, El­iz­a­beth Antony, G.K. Vasan, Ad­mi­ral D.K. Joshi, Chi­tra Joshi, the CMD, Cochin Ship­yard Limited, Com­modore K. Subra­ma­niam and the Act­ing Sec­re­tary, Ship­ping, Vi­jay Chib­ber at the launch.

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