Indian Navy set to launch aircraft carrier in next five years
India will be operating two new aircraft carriers within the next five years, if all goes according to plan.
After much delay, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), being built in Cochin, is ready for its launch on August 12. At the same time, the second carrier, INS Vikramaditya, will be undergoing extensive final sea trials in Russia.
While Vikramaditya should join the navy in early 2014, the aircraft carrier would take another three years. The 40,000-tonne aircraft carrier will cross a major development milestone when the ship would be launched by defence minister A.K. Antony, marking the end of the first phase of construction.
The launch would mean that the ship would be out of dry dock after completion of work related to fitting all underwater equipment like engines, gear box, shafting and diesel alternators. The construction of the complex warship was undertaken in two phases. The first phase, with a hiked budget of around Rs.3,000 crore, was originally scheduled to end in 2011 but delays in procuring good quality steel and an accident involving gear boxes unsettled the timeline.
Price negotiations for the second phase are underway and it is estimated to cost around the same. The final ship is not expected to be more than `8,000 crore making it probably the cheapest aircraft carrier in the world. Sources in the shipyard said some of the work from phase-II has already started and it is estimated that in two years the ship would be 90 per cent complete.
The navy for long has hoped to operate two carrier battle groups. An aircraft carrier moves with around six to the ship is only ready from the front to the rear with its full length complete and sealed. The Cochin shipyard was specially prepared for construction of big ships. Goliath cranes were provided at the shipyard to pick up large blocks for modular construction.
Despite the delays, the construction of an indigenous carrier is a major boost to country's ship-building capabilities. At the moment, 46 of 47 new naval warships are being built in domestic shipyards. Stealth frigate INS Trikand, which was commissioned in Russia, was the last ship ordered from abroad. Now only the delivery of INS Vikramaditya is awaited.