Vikrant-class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)
India will have its aircraft carrier, built indigenously, 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].
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 will 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 will become the fourth country in the world to build its own large aircraft carrier, after the United States, Russia and France.
Vikrant-class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Design
In March 2004 Defence Minister George Fernandes said that the Indian navy will 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 will 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 will 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 will 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. The vessel will be powered by four HAL-built General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines driving 2 shafts. 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. The air group was projected to consist of at least 12 - and possibly 24 - combat aircraft like the MiG-29K, Sea Harrier and Naval 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.
This ship can carry a maximum of 30 aircraft and 17 of these can be accommodated in the hangar. The ship will have two runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires. The ship has a length of 252 m, maximum breadth of 58m. draft of 8.4m and a depth of 25.6m. The ship will be propelled by four LM2500 gas turbines generating a total power of 80 MW (120,000HP approximately) thereby enabling the ship to do a maximum speed of 28 knots. The ship will have an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles at 18 knots and the logistic endurance of 45 days.
This 252 meter-long ship, displacing over 37,500 tons, will be capable of operating a formidable array of 20 modern fighter aircraft of the MiG-29K, LCA (Navy) and See Harrier Genre and upto to 10 helicopters of different types Its 2.5 acre flight deck, with a maximum width of 58 meters, will enable launch of fighter aircraft using ski-jump for take off and arrester wire for landing on an angled deck. Powered by four LM 2500 gas turbines, generating 80 MW of power, the ship will be able to achieve speeds in excess of 28 knots. Manned by a complement of 1,600 officers and men, she will have an endurance of 7500 nautical miles She will be the first warship to be built with quality steel, developed in India by DRDO and SAIL.
About 260 m long and 60 m wide, the IAC will have the capability to operate "a mix of aircraft," including Russian MiG-29K fighters and Ka-31 combat helicopters, as well as domestically made light combat aircraft (LCA). The ministry said that the ship would be propelled by two LM2500 gas turbines developing a total power of 80 MW, sufficient to attain speeds up to 28 knots. It will have an endurance of around 8,000 NM and a crew of 1,600. The IAC, with two takeoff runways and one landing strip with 3 arrester wires, can carry up to 30 aircraft.
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