Navy to ex­er­cise INS Vikra­ma­ditya in 2014

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE -

As the In­dian Navy works on sail­ing its new­est ac­qui­si­tion back home, it has al­ready de­cided that the INS Vikra­ma­ditya will be part of pre­lim­i­nary in­ter­nal ex­er­cises in the Ara­bian Sea in 2014, but will be fielded in joint ex­er­cises with other coun­tries only from 2015 on­wards.

Af­ter op­er­at­ing a sin­gle air­craft car­rier for over 16 years, the In­dian Navy is once again tech­ni­cally a two-car­rier force with INS Vikra­ma­ditya all set to join the INS Vi­raat in the Western Fleet when it ar­rives in In­dian waters in Jan­uary. The 44,500-tonne air­craft car­rier will op­er­ate from Kar­war, where the Seabird project is all set to re­ceive her along with her 183-strong Rus­sian guar­an­tee squad, that will re­main at the base for a pe­riod of one year to iron out in­duc­tion is­sues that could spring up in the near term.

The two-car­rier navy no­tion, though, is only that right now a no­tion. The Vikra­ma­ditya won’t be op­er­a­tional as a fight­ing plat­form for more than a year. The MiG-29Ks at INS Hansa will be­gin op­er­at­ing from the ship’s deck in 2014, and will only be fully op­er­a­tional by early 2015. The INS Vi­raat, on the other hand, over 50 years old in to­tal ser­vice, is on its last legs, though its last re­fit may see it ex­tended in ser­vice till 2017-18. The ship it­self is a lower cause for worry, since its em­bed­ded fleet of up­graded Sea Har­ri­ers are small in num­ber, and avail­abil­ity is­sues con­strain sus­tained op­er­a­tions. There­fore, it may not be un­til 2015 that In­dia has a fully func­tional air­craft car­rier force again.

Be that as it may, the INS Vikra­ma­ditya will find pride of place in the Western Fleet as the coun­try’s flag­ship. For $2.35 bil­lion, the In­dian Navy may have been forced to wait nearly a decade, but is sat­is­fied with the re­sults, and is look­ing for­ward to ex­plor­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of its new­est war­ship.

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