According to the Indian Navy’s (IN) Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Robin K Dhowan, the IN will from next year be operating two aircraft carriers at any given time—one each for the eastern and western seaboards. The VCNS also confirmed yesterday that the IN will, by 2019, be able to operate two carrier battle groups (CBG). The 37,500-tonne Project 71 Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1), to be christened INS Vikrant, will be launched on August 12, 2013 at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), and will be ready for induction by December 2018. To date, 75% of its superstructure has been fabricated. The 260-metre-long IAC, whose hull-construction had commenced in November 2006, will be able to accommodate 20 MiG-29K MRCAs, five Ka-28PL ASW helicopters and five Ka-31 AEW helicopters. Its crew complement will comprise 160 officers and 1,400 sailors. Powered by four HAL-assembled and GE-developed LM-2500 marine industrial gas-turbines, the IAC-1/INS Vikrant will have an endurance of around 7,500 nautical miles while cruising at a speed of 18 Knots.
For the IAC-1/INS Vikrant, the IN has selected the Mk 7 hydraulic damping arresting system from the US Navy, while US-based Wire Rope Industries Inc will supply the arrester cables. Another US-based company, Engineered Arresting Systems Corp, will supply the arrester barriers. In contrast, INS Vikramaditya’s hydraulic damping arresting system was designed by Marine Engineering Research Institute and made by Proletarsky Zavod. Other hardware to go on board IAC-1 include twin side-mounted aircraft elevators and their chain-drives from UK-based MacTaggart Scott, while Wire Rope Industries will supply the ammunition hoisting elevators. The CBRN detection sensors will be supplied by US-based Bruker Daltonics, which has for the past decade supplied almost all the CBRN detection sensors for all three of India’s armed services (while the remaining have come from French OEMs). The IAC-1’s inertial navigation system will use Sagem-built SIGMA-40 ring laser-gyros.
The VCNS also confirmed that the commissioning date for the IN’s first Project 15A guided-missile destroyer (DDG)—INS Kolkata—has been postponed to early next year. Previously, it was planned to commission this vessel sometime later this month.
The 44,570-tonne INS Vikramaditya will be arriving in India by early December 2013, while the IN’s existing solitary aircraft carrier—54-year-old 28,000-tonne INS Viraat—will remain in service till 2018 along with the 11 remaining BAE Systems Sea Harrier LUSH V/STOL MRCAs. INS Vikramaditya will be able to accommodate 20 MiG-29Ks, plus four Ka-28PL ASW and four Ka-31 AEW helicopters.
Following its arrival in Mumbai (its homeport), INS Vikramaditya will be fitted with vertically-launched silos for 48 Barak-2 LR-SAMs, while for target engagement and fire-control support for the Barak-2, an Israel Aerospace Industries/ELTA Systems-built ALPHA (Advanced Lightweight Phased Array Radar) S-band active phased-array radar system will be installed. The ALPHA, also known as the EL/M-2258, is a derivative of the S-band EL/M-2248 Multi-Function Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR), which will be on board the IAC-1/INS Vikrant as well as on the three Project 15A DDGs, four Project 15B DDGs as well as the seven Project 17A FFGs.