INS Vikrant to be commissioned on September 2

INS Vikrant. Photo: E V Sreekumar

New Delhi: India's first indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will contribute in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade said on Thursday, ahead of the warship's commissioning on September 2.

The Vice Admiral said the aircraft landing trials on board INS Vikrant will begin in November and they will be completed by mid-2023, adding the MiG-29K jets will operate from the warship for the first few years.

At a media briefing, he also said the planned induction of a fleet of deck-based jets from either Boeing or the Dassault Aviation would be an "interim arrangement" before the Navy gets the indigenously-built Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF).

INS Vikrant, built at a cost of around Rs 20,000 crore, will be commissioned into the Navy at a ceremony in Kochi which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vice Admiral Ghormade said INS Vikrant would be another formidable front-line asset in the Indian Navy's ability to maintain credible presence in the maritime domain and protect the country's interests.

He said the commissioning of INS Vikrant will not only make India enter an elite group of nations capable of manufacturing aircraft carriers above 40,000 tonnes category, but it will also reflect the country's unity and diversity.

The Vice Chief said equipment for the aircraft carrier has been manufactured in 18 states and union territories including places such as Kolkata, Jalandhar, Kota, Pune, Delhi, Ambala, Hyderabad and Indore.

"It will be an unforgettable day for India. It will reflect India's growing prowess in defence manufacturing," he said.

Vice Admiral Ghormade said India now has an eco-system to build the next aircraft carrier and noted that deliberations for it are underway.

The Navy has been pitching for three aircraft carriers to deal with China's growing naval prowess and its growing influence over the Indian Ocean region. At present, India has only one aircraft carrier -- INS Vikramaditya -- which is a Russian origin platform.

Explaining the scheduled launch of trials of aircraft landing on board INS Vikrant from November, Vice Admiral Ghormade said such an exercise after the commissioning of an aircraft carrier is a normal practice in all advanced nations as well.

"After commissioning, when the complete crew is there, all systems are in place, only then aircraft landing trials happen. This is true for all advanced nations," he said.

"We hope to complete it by the middle of next year and we will put in all efforts so that the aircraft carrier is operationally ready with the aircraft. The aircraft which are available with us are MiG-29Ks," he added.

The Navy is in the process of procuring 26 deck-based aircraft and it has narrowed down on Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and French aerospace major Dassault Aviation's Rafale M aircraft.

Rafale M
Rafale Marine. Photo: Manorama Online.

Vice Admiral Ghormade said the Navy is currently undertaking a comprehensive evaluation process of two aircraft, but added the procurement would be for an interim period as the government is looking at an indigenously developed deck-based jet for the aircraft carrier.

F/A-18 Super Hornet. Photo: Manorama Online.

Asked whether the commissioning of the INS Vikrant will help India in protecting its maritime interests more vigorously in the region in the backdrop of China's attempts to increase its maritime influence in countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives, he said the warship will provide required deterrence.

"Commissioning of the aircraft carrier will provide the required deterrence considering the growing strength of our neighbours and to enhance our maritime capability. Therefore, it (commissioning of INS Vikrant) is going to be a very big event for us," the Vice Chief said.

Vice Admiral Ghormade said the aircraft carrier would be able to play a role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

The air wing of the ship would consist of 30 aircraft comprising MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, in addition to indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

With the construction of 'Vikrant', India has joined a select group of nations such as the US, the UK, Russia, China and France, having the niche capability to indigenously design and build an aircraft carrier.

The INS Vikrant has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1,700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers.

Vikrant has a top speed of around 28 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles.

The warship is 262 metres long, 62 metres wide and it has a height of 59 metres. Its construction began in 2009.

The Navy said the ship is powered by four gas turbines totalling 88 MW power.

The project has been implemented under three phases of contract between the ministry of defence and Cochin Shipyard Ltd, beginning May 2007.

The ship's keel was laid in February 2009. 

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