Vikrant-class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)
The Vikrant aircraft carrier was formally launched on 12 August 2013.
The Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral R.K. Dhowan held a press briefing on 01 August 2013, as a curtain raiser prior to the launch of the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC)- Project-71. With it, India will have its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier, allowing it to join the elite group of nations capable of designing and building an aircraft carrier. As of 2005, India had only one aircraft carrier, INS Virat and another aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened as INS Vikramaditya, was to join the fleet by 2008 [by the end of 2008, this target had slipped to 2012, and then to the end of 2013]. While the Indian government claims that its first home-built carrier, the Vikrant, will be fully operational by 2018, Indian Navy sources say that date is closer to 2020 since the ship was only about 30 percent complete at launch.
With the retirement of the INS Vikrant in January 1997, the Indian Navy had only one carrier. This was set to change with the arrival of the "Admiral Of The Fleet Gorshkov" (formerly "Baku"), purchased from the Russian Navy, and the indigenous Air Defense Ship (ADS). Both these new carriers would be armed by the MiG-29SMTk. The ADS had been redesigned by the Navy to accommodate the Naval variant of the Russian- made MiG-29 fighter along with the Naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which will extend the air superiority and anti-shipping capabilities of the Indian Navy by a large margin.
Though the proposal to build a 20,000 ton Air Defence Ship (ADS) had been in the pipeline since the early 1990s, it received formal government approval only in January 2003. By then time, the vessel had doubled in displacement, to a 37,500 ton warship that would carry jet fighters like the MiG-29K and not the Sea Harriers as first planned. In August 2006 the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash stated that the designation for the vessel had been changed from Air Defence Ship (ADS) to Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). The misnomer ADS was adopted by the navy to ward off objections to the Navy going in for an aircraft carrier, especially by the IAF when the SU-30s were being acquired.
This is the most prestigious project which the Indian Navy had taken up so far. The design and construction of ADS is a technical complexity which far outstrip any such challenge faced hitherto by the Indian Navy. It is interesting to note that India became [arguably] the fourth country in recent times to launch its own large aircraft carrier [as opposed to smalelr VSTOL/helicopter carriers], after the United States, Russia and France [the United Kingdom and Italy have large carriers on the way].
The aircraft carrier will be floated out of dry dock, then redocked in order to mount the propulsion system. Work will then begin on the deck and the weapon systems before sea trials. And while Defence Ministry officials say those trials will begin by 2016, Indian Navy sources say it will not be before 2018-19. the total cost of the carrier will be more than US $5 billion, including the aircraft and weapons systems. When the project was approved in 2003, the ship was estimated to cost around $500 million. Sources said the construction of the carrier, minus the weapon systems and aircraft, will cost more than $2.2 billion.
The Navy plans to have three aircraft carriers; a final decision is awaited on the IAC-2, which would be another homemade carrier but would displace more than 60,000 tons, 20,000 tons more than Vikrant. IAC-2 is still in the design stage but will have a catapult deck. Having three carriers allows one to be stationed on each of India’s coasts, while the third would undergo repairs.
Vikrant-class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Design
In March 2004 Defence Minister George Fernandes said that the Indian navy would likely induct its first indigenously built aircraft carrier in 2011. Furthermore, by August 2004, both Defense News and Jane's Defence Weekly were reporting that the Indian Ministry of Defence had awarded a $30 million contract to Fincantieri's Naval Vessel Business Unit to help prepare the concept, design, and implementation plans for the vessel. The Italian company was awarded the contract over DCN International of France, who had originally won the contract for the design study in 1989, and Izac Construcciones Navales of Spain.
Fincantieri, through its Naval Vessel Business Unit, signed two contracts with the Indian shipyard of Cochin; the contracts relate to design and assistance during the construction of a new aircraft carrier, the "Air Defence Ship", for the Indian Navy. One of the most important players in the Indian shipbuilding industry, Cochin shipyard is active in the field of merchant and naval shipbuilding as well as ship conversions and repairs.
The first contract covered assessment of the entire ship's design and responsibility for "propulsion system integration" in addition to providing assistance to the shipyard during installation of the engines and during the successive phase of tests of integration and sea trials. During the development of the design a team of officers of the Indian Navy and engineering experts from Cochin shipyard would work in Italy together with Fincantieri technical staff at the headquarters of the Naval Vessel Business Unit.
The second contract regarded the supply of the engineering and detailed design of the ancillary propulsion systems and the ship's main plants. Again, Fincantieri would provide the shipyard with assistance while construction is in progress and during tests and trials. The two contracts were expected to cover approximately 2 years, although assistance would continue until the trials and delivery have taken place - scheduled to occur by the end of this decade.
As of 2004, the most recent design had SAMs in VLS (Vertical Launch System) cells mounted on sponsons on either beam - the port side is to the aft of the ship while the starboard sponson is to the fore of the ship. Four OTO Melera 76mm Super Rapid dual purpose guns are mounted symmetrically on sponsons along the flight deck- two on the fore section and two at the fantail (stern). Preliminary sensor fit appears to show a Top Plate 3D radar on the mainmast and a large 3D radar antennae of a yet undetermined type, along with the usual SATCOM and Electronic Warfare antennae.
This last design iteration showed much influence from the Italian Andrea Dorea Class carrier (currently known as the Cavour Class) in that there was much sloping of the superstructure and ship sides. Powered by four LM 2500 gas turbines, generating 80 MW of power driving 2 shafts, the ship would be able to achieve speeds in excess of 28 knots. Manned by a complement of 1,600 officers and men, she would have an endurance of 7,500-8,000 nautical miles, and the logistic endurance of 45 days. She would be the first warship to be built with quality steel, developed in India by DRDO and SAIL.
Its 2.5 acre flight deck would enable launch of fighter aircraft using ski-jump for take off and arrester wire for landing on an angled deck. The ship, displacing over 37,500 tons, would have two runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires. The ship has a length of 250 meters [not 252 m], maximum breadth of 60 meters [not 58m.] draft of 8.4m and a depth of 25.6m. With a 12 to 14º ski-jump, the carrier has a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) arrangement on an angled flight deck with 2 aircraft elevators - one before the island and one after. In the STOBAR arrangement, the aircraft lands on the angled-flight deck and is stopped by arrester wires.
This ship can carry a maximum of 30 aircraft and 17 of these can be accommodated in the hangar. The air group was projected to consist of at least 12 - and possibly 24 - combat aircraft like the MiG-29K, Sea Harrier and Naval light combat aircraft (LCA) along with 10 or so helicopters of the Sea King Mk.42 and/or the HAL Dhruv. Two Ka-31 helicopters would provide airborne early warning coverage.
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