INS Vikrant (2013)

Summary

INS Vikrant, also known as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1),[16] is an aircraft carrier constructed by the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) for the Indian Navy. It is the first aircraft carrier to be built in India. It is named 'Vikrant' as a tribute to India's first aircraft carrier, Vikrant (R11). The name Vikrant means "courageous" in Sanskrit.[17] The motto of the ship is "Jayema Saṁ Yudhi Spr̥dhaḥ", means "I defeat those who fight against me".

IAC1 Vikrant during sea trials (cropped).png
Vikrant during her sea trials
History
India
NameINS Vikrant
NamesakeINS Vikrant (R11)
OperatorIndian Navy
Ordered2004
BuilderCochin Shipyard Limited
Cost$0.5 billion (planned), $3.13 billion as of Jan 2020[3]
Laid down28 February 2009
Launched12 August 2013
CommissionedAugust 2022 (expected)[1]
MottoSanskrit जयेम सं युधिस्पृध: "I defeat those who fight against me"
StatusSea trials completed[2]
BadgeINS Vikrant crest.jpg
General characteristics
Displacement45,000 tons of loaded displacement[6] 40,000 t (39,000 long tons; 44,000 short tons) standard
Length262 m (860 ft)
Beam62 m (203 ft)
Height59 m (194 ft)[4]
Draught8.4 m (28 ft)
Depth25.6 m (84 ft)
Decks14
Installed power
PropulsionTwo shafts
Speed30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)[15]
Range8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi)[5]
Crew196 officers, 1,449 sailors (including air crew)[12]
Sensors and
processing systems
Electronic warfare
& decoys
DRDO Shakti EW suite[15]
Armament
Aircraft carried
Aviation facilities
  • 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft) flight deck
  • Two aircraft lift

Work on the ship's design began in 1999, and the keel was laid in February 2009. The carrier was floated out of its dry dock on 29 December 2011[18] and was launched on 12 August 2013.[19] The basin trials were completed in December 2020,[20] and the ship started sea trials in August 2021.[21] Vikrant is scheduled to be commissioned into service by August 2022, with flight trials of aircraft expected to be completed by mid-2023.[21][22] The total cost of the project was approximately 23,000 crore (US$3.0 billion) at the time of first sea trials.[23]

BackgroundEdit

In 1999, Defence Minister George Fernandes authorised the development and construction of an aircraft carrier, 'INS Vikrant', under the Project 71 Air Defence Ship (ADS).[24] By that time, given the ageing Sea Harrier fleet, the letter of intent called for a carrier that would carry more modern jet fighters. In 2001, Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) released a graphic illustration showing a 32,000-ton STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) design with a pronounced ski jump.[25] The aircraft carrier project finally received formal government approval in January 2003. By then, design updates called for a 37,500-ton carrier to operate the Mikoyan MiG-29K. India opted for a three-carrier fleet consisting of one carrier battle group stationed on each seaboard, and a third carrier held in reserve, in order to continuously protect both its flanks, to protect economic interests and mercantile traffic, and to provide humanitarian platforms in times of disasters, since a carrier can provide a self-generating supply of fresh water, medical assistance or engineering expertise to populations in need for assistance.[26]

In August 2006, Chief of the 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 euphemistic ADS had been adopted in planning stages to ward off concerns about a naval build-up. Final revisions to the design increased the displacement of the carrier from 37,500 tons to over 40,000 tons. The length of the ship also increased from 252 metres (827 ft) to 262 metres (860 ft).[27]

DesignEdit

The indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is 262 metres (860 ft) long and 62 metres (203 ft) wide, and displaces about 45,000 metric tons (44,000 long tons).[28] It features a STOBAR configuration[29] with a ski-jump. The deck is designed to enable aircraft such as the MiG-29K to operate from the carrier. It is expected to carry an air group of up to thirty aircraft, which will include up to 24–26 fixed-wing combat aircraft,[30] primarily the MiG-29K, besides carrying 10 Kamov Ka-31 or Westland Sea King helicopters. The Ka-31 will fulfill the airborne early warning (AEW) role and the Sea King will provide anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.[31][32]

 
A schematic diagram of INS Vikrant

Vikrant is powered by four General Electric LM2500+ gas turbines on two shafts, generating over 80 megawatts (110,000 hp) of power. The gearboxes for the carriers were designed and supplied by Elecon Engineering.[18][33][34]

The ship's combat management system (CMS) was developed by Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division in collaboration with Weapon and Electronics System Engineering Establishment and MARS, Russia. It is the first CMS developed by a private company for the Indian Navy, and was handed over to the Navy on 28 March 2019.[35][36]

Carrier air groupEdit

India considered a number of aircraft for operation from its aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya and the planned indigenous aircraft carrier. India evaluated the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, but chose the lighter MiG-29K as Vikramaditya was smaller and lacked an aircraft catapult.[37] On 18 January 2010, it was reported that India and Russia were close to signing a deal for 29 MiG-29K fighters to operate from IAC-1.[38] In addition, the Navy signed a deal for six naval-variants of the indigenous HAL Tejas.[39] In June 2012, Flight Global reported that the Indian Navy was considering the use of the Dassault Rafale M (Naval variant) on these carriers.[40] On 6 January 2022, The Indian Navy started testing the Rafale-M for operations from INS Vikrant at the shore-based test facility at INS Hansa in Goa. Some reports citing the same also indicated that the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would be tested at the same locale in March 2022[41][42][43][44]

In December 2016, the Navy announced that the HAL Tejas was overweight for carrier operations, and other alternatives would be looked at.[45][46] The Navy settled with MiG-29K as the primary aircraft for the IAC-1.[47][48]

In late January 2017, the Indian Navy released an international Request for Information (RFI) for 57 "Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters". The main contest was between the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Dassault Rafale-M. Both these aircraft are operable on the Vikrant and Vikramaditya.[49] In December 2020, Boeing demonstrated F/A-18E/F operations from Indian carriers at the shore-based test facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, US.[50][51] In mid 2020, the Navy announced that it was seeking 36 fighters instead of the initial 57 proposed due to budgetary constraints.[52]

After the HAL Tejas and the Tejas Mk2 were considered overweight for carrier operations, the Defence Research and Development Organization introduced a program to develop a twin-engine, carrier based, multirole combat aircraft called the HAL Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy. A model of the aircraft was displayed at Aero India 2021. The first flight is expected in 2026 with induction into the forces by 2032. The TEDBF is expected to perform multiple roles like combat air patrol, air-to-air combat, anti-ship strike and buddy refueling.[53] This aircraft has also been envisioned to operate from the INS Vikrant, INS Vikramaditya and the future aircraft carrier INS Vishal.

ConstructionEdit

IAC-1 on its maiden sea voyage.

Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier to be designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy and the first warship to be built by Cochin Shipyard. Its construction involved participation of a large number of private and public firms.

The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) created facilities to manufacture the DMR 249 grade steel in India.[18][54] Reportedly, 26,000 tonnes of three types of special steel for the hull, flight deck and floor compartments were manufactured at the Bokaro Steel Plant, Jharkhand, Bhilai Steel Plant, Chhattisgarh and Rourkela Steel Plant, Odisha. Due to this, Vikrant is the first ship of the Indian Navy to be built completely using domestically produced steel.[55] The main switch board, steering gear and water tight hatches have been manufactured by Larsen & Toubro in Mumbai and Talegaon; high-capacity air conditioning and refrigeration systems have been manufactured in Kirloskar Group's plants in Pune; most pumps have been supplied by Best and Crompton; Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) supplied the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), which is being installed by Avio, an Italian company; the gear box was supplied by Elecon Engineering; and the electrical cables are being supplied by Nicco Industries.[56] Fincantieri provided consultancy for the propulsion package while Russia's Nevskoye Design Bureau designed the aviation complex.[57]

The keel for Vikrant was laid by Defence Minister A.K. Antony at the Cochin Shipyard on 28 February 2009.[58][59][60] The ship uses modular construction, with 874 blocks joined for the hull. By the time the keel was laid, 423 blocks weighing over 8,000 tons had been completed.[61] In August 2011, the Defence Ministry reported to the Lok Sabha that 75% of the construction work for the hull of the lead carrier had been completed and the carrier would be first launched in December 2011, following which further works would be completed until commissioning.[62][63] On 29 December 2011, the completed hull of the carrier was first floated out of its dry dock at CSL, with its displacement at over 14,000 tonnes.[33] Interior works and fittings on the hull would be carried out until the second half of 2012, when it would again be dry-docked for integration with its propulsion and power generation systems.[5][18] By late 2012, work commenced for the next stage of construction, which included the installation of the integrated propulsion system, the superstructure, the upper decks, the cabling, sensors and weapons.[64]

LaunchEdit

 
INS Vikrant during its launch in August 2013

In July 2013, Defence Minister Antony announced that Vikrant would be launched on 12 August at the Cochin Shipyard. The ship was launched by his wife, Elizabeth Antony, on 12 August 2013.[65]

According to Admiral Robin Dhowan, about 83% of the fabrication work and 75% of the construction work had been completed at the time of launching. He said that 90% of the body work of the aircraft carrier had been designed and made in India, about 50% of the propulsion system, and about 30% of its weaponry. He also said that the ship would be equipped with a long range missile system with multi-function radar and a close-in weapon system (CIWS).[66] After the launch, Vikrant would be re-docked for the second phase of construction, in which the ship would be fitted with various weapons and sensors, and the propulsion system, flight deck and the aircraft complex would be integrated.[56]

Undocking and fitting-outEdit

 
INS Vikrant during its undocking in June 2015

Vikrant was undocked on 10 June 2015 after the completion of structural work. Cabling, piping, heat and ventilation works were scheduled to be completed by 2017 with sea trials to begin thereafter.[67] By October 2015, the construction of the hull was close to 98 percent complete, with flight deck construction underway.[68] The installation of machinery, piping and the propeller shafts was in progress by January 2016; it was reported, however, that there were delays in the delivery of equipment from Russia for the carrier's aviation complex.[69] By May 2017, the carrier's fitting-out was 62% complete, with trials of the auxiliary systems scheduled by late 2017.[12]

In February 2020, all major structural and outfitting work was declared complete.[70]

Harbour and sea trialsEdit

On 31 October 2019, Cochin Shipyard received a 3,000 crore (equivalent to 32 billion or US$420 million in 2020) contract for the Phase-III of the project.[71] This contract included funds for the harbour trials, sea trials and support for the ship during its weapons and aviation trials after its delivery.[72] In December 2019, it was reported the engines had been switched on.[73] By September 2020, Vikrant had completed harbour trials while the basin trials started from October 2020 to check propulsion, electric transmission and shafting systems.[74] On 30 November 2020, the basin trials were completed, paving the way for sea trials, the final phase of the IAC-I project.[75][76]

 
Basin trials of the aircraft carrier.

In April 2021, it was reported work had begun to integrate the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) onboard Vikrant.[77][78][79] On 15 June 2021, Vikrant was moved to the Ernakulam Wharf in Kochi, Kerala.[80] On 25 June 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while reviewing the progress of the IAC, said the carrier would begin its sea trials in July.[81]

On 4 August 2021, sea trials finally began, with the vessel scheduled to be commissioned in August 2022.[82] The maiden voyage of the sea trials was successfully completed on 8 August 2021.[83]

On 24 October 2021, IAC-1 began the 2nd phase of the trial and successfully completed the sea trial meeting all parameters.[84]

On 9 January 2022, IAC-1 began the 3rd phase of the trial to carry out complex manoeuvres in high seas ahead of its planned induction in August.[85][86][87] Vikrant successfully completed the trial on 17 January 2022.[88]

 
A Sea King approaches Vikrant while on sea trials

Completion and commissioningEdit

INS Vikrant is scheduled to be commissioned into the Indian Navy in August 2022.[89] Flight trials of its aircraft complement are expected to be completed by mid-2023, after which the ship will be fully operational.[21] In March 2020, it was revealed that after its commissioning, the Navy will deploy Vikrant at Larsen & Toubro's shipyard in Kattupalli near Chennai. This was done as the planned naval base in Rambilli near Vishakhapatnam was not ready yet. The Navy wants to lease a 260 m berth at Kattupalli shipyard for 8 years between 2022 and 2030 for interim berthing of the ship, by which time the naval base at Rambilli is expected to be available.[90]

Commanding officersEdit

Name Assumed office Left office Notes
Commodore Vidhyadhar Harke 7 May 2021 Present First CO (designate) of Vikrant.[91]

Project delaysEdit

The IAC project has experienced numerous delays. The construction plan originally called for the carrier to be launched in 2010, when it would displace some 20,000 tonnes, as a larger displacement could not be accommodated in the building bay. It was planned that after about a year's development in the refit dock, the carrier would be launched when all the major components, including underwater systems, would be in place. Outfitting would then be carried out after launch. Vikrant was intended to be delivered in December 2010[92] and commissioned in 2016. As per the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), sea trials were initially planned to commence in 2013, with the ship to be commissioned in 2014.[93][94] This was later postponed, with sea trials to begin in 2017 and commissioning planned for 2018.[95] In March 2011, it was reported that the project had been affected by the delay in the delivery of the main gearboxes for the carrier. The supplier, Elecon, attributed it to having to work around a number of technical complexities due to the length of the propulsion shafts.[96] Other issues resulting in delays included an accident with a diesel generator and an issue with its alignment.[97] In July 2012, The Times of India reported that construction of Vikrant has been delayed by three years, and the ship would be ready for commissioning by 2018.[98] Later, in November 2012, Indian English-language news channel NDTV reported that cost of the aircraft carrier had increased and the delivery has been delayed by at least five years and is expected to be with the Indian Navy only after 2018 as against the scheduled date of delivery of 2014.[99]

In July 2016, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) published a 2014 project plan, supplied by the Cochin Shipyard, that showed an expected completion date in 2023,[92] though the Navy hoped to partially commission the ship before this date.[100] In December 2017, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba announced that the ship was expected to commence sea trials and be commissioned in 2020.[95][101] In January 2018, Commodore J Chowdhary, the principal director of naval design, announced the remaining procurement delays stalling Vikrant's construction had been resolved, and that the carrier would be completed and delivered by December 2018; it would then undergo two years of sea trials before its then-expected commissioning in October 2020.[102]

During the December 2019 Navy Day press briefing, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh said Vikrant would be fully operational before the end of 2022.[103] A part of the blame for the delay in delivery of Vikrant was attributed to the delay in the supply of aviation equipment from Russia. In response to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Sripad Naik, the Minister of State for Defence, stated: "Ship's targeted delivery was affected due to delay in supply of aviation equipment from Russia".[104] The Navy expected to commission Vikrant by the end of 2021,[74] with an April 2021 report by the Hindustan Times claiming Vikrant, along with the stealth guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, would be delivered to the Indian Navy by the end of 2021.[105][106] Other construction and procurement delays initially delayed the warship's sea trials to April 2020 from their originally scheduled date of 12 March 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, trials were further postponed to late 2020,[103] but ultimately began in August 2021. As of August 2021, the carrier is scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

  • Delay in equipment from Russia affected the delivery schedule of INS Vikrant
  • Images during the launch of Vikrant
  • Making of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, Transition to Guardianship: The Indian Navy 1991-2000, Vice Adm (Retd) G M Hiranandani
  • Indigenous Aircraft Carrier on Bharat Rakshak
  • History of Air Defense Ship on Global Security
  • Global Security