INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, heads out for sea trials - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 4 August 2021

INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, heads out for sea trials

The Indian Navy has always operated at least one carrier since INS Vikrant's induction in 1961

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 5th Aug 21


On a landmark day for Indian shipbuilding, Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant, the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1), sailed out on Wednesday from Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) for her maiden sea trials.


“This is the largest and most complex warship ever to be designed and built in India,” stated an Indian Navy press release. “With the building of IAC-1, India joins a select group of nations having the niche capability to indigenously design, build and integrate a state of the art aircraft carrier.”


These eight nations are the US, Russia, UK, France, China, Italy, Japan and Spain.


India has operated aircraft carriers ever since the first INS Vikrant was inducted in 1961. In 1987, with the Vikrant nearing retirement, the navy inducted a second carrier, INS Viraat, built by Vickers-Armstrong, UK. As HMS Hermes, the Viraat had served as the Royal Navy’s flagship, and headed the British naval task force during the 1982 Falkland Island campaign. 


In 2003, with only a limited service life remaining for INS Viraat, the government sanctioned the design and construction of IAC-1, at a cost of Rs 3,261 crore. It will finally be delivered about six years late and at a cost of about Rs 20,000 crore.


Currently, the Indian Navy operates a single aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which was bought from Russia. INS Vikrant will join it next year. Meanwhile, the navy is planning a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), to follow INS Vikrant.


“I believe we need three aircraft carriers, so that at least two are operational at all times,” said navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, in December 2019.


The 40,000 tonne INS Vikrant is designed to operate a mix of aircraft. Its strike power comes predominantly from the Russian MiG-29K fighter, Kamov-31 helicopters and the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-role helicopters, when those are delivered.


The navy is simultaneously processing the acquisition of 57 more deck-based fighters to boost the strike power of IAC-1 and IAC-2.


To get airborne from INS Vikrant, the fixed wing MiG-29K fighters have two take-off positions: a long take-off position that provides 206 metres of runway length, and a short take-off position that provides 145 metres. The latter is for emergencies when it is imperative to get as many aircraft as possible airborne quickly.


The aircraft carrier is propelled at speeds up to 28 knots (52 kilometres per hour) by two propellers, each one coupled to two LM2500 gas turbines. Of these four turbines, two are designated as cruise turbines for regular operations, while the other two provide boost power for emergencies. Italian shipbuilder, Fincantieri, provided consultancy for the propulsion system.


For normal operations, the Vikrant cruises at 18 knots (33 kmph), a speed at which it has an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles (13,800 kilometres)


INS Vikrant is 262 metres long, 62 metres wide and 59 metres high including the superstructure. There are 14 decks in all, including five in the superstructure, stated a navy release.


The ship has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1,700 sailors. These include specialised cabins to accommodate women officers.  The ship has been designed with a high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation and survivability, the navy said. 


The Vikrant underwent basin trials late last year, in which its propulsion and power generation equipment were tested while in harbour. However, the commencement of sea trials was delayed due to the second wave of Covid-19.


Now, during the Vikrant’s maiden voyage, the giant ship’s performance, including hull, main propulsion, power generation and auxiliary equipment will be closely watched.


The Ministry of Defence says the IAC project is “a true example of of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India)” with 75 per cent of the material and equipment onboard being indigenous. This includes raw material such as 23,000 tonnes of steel, 2,500 km of electrical cable, 150 km of pipes and 2,000 valves, as well as finished products such as anchor capstans, rigid hull boats, galley equipment, air conditioning and refrigeration plants, steering gear and over 150 pumps and motors, communication equipment and the ship’s combat network systems.


The carrier was originally to be built with imported steel, but the Defence R&D Organisation and Steel Authority of India (SAIL) rose to the occasion, developing and manufacturing the indigenous DMR 249A and B warship-grade steel that the Vikrant is built from.


Over 50 large Indian manufacturers have been directly involved in this project which has provided direct employment to 2,000 Indians and indirect employment to over 40,000 workers. About 80-85 per cent of the project cost has been ploughed back into the Indian economy.



    The Press Release states Indian would join a select group of nations. It does not mention "six nations". Is there another release doing the rounds?

    Because its not just six nations. Italy and Japan come to mind right away. Lack of basic knowledge and fact checking.

    1. You're absolutely correct! Amendment made. Thank you.


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