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India Floats out Its First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 'INS Vikrant' From Cochin

India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) for the Indian Navy has been floated out at state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) during a ceremony attended by high-ranking naval officials and ministers. The IAC-1 is a 40,000 tonne air defence platform and will be named INS Vikrant. Due to delays in the projects, the INS is likely to enter service only in 2015. Since this India’s first attempt at building a sea-borne aircraft carrier, a modular construction pattern was being adopted wherein complete blocks were built off site and then fitted in order to speed up the construction.

The hull of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was floated out of its dry-dock facility and it was a low key event. Apparently, the dry-dock facility was required for urgent commercial work at the shipyard and the actual launch is expected to take place a year from now. The floating ceremony was followed by a review of the progress on the aircraft carrier and the next course of action to finish the project on time. According to sources, the project work has missed its deadline due to the delays in construction at the CSL.

Currently, the indigenous aircraft carrier has taken on about 14,000 tonnes and the process of interior outfitting will be carried out. This will involve the laying of pipes before the carrier is dry-docked again in mid-2012. This will be followed by integration of the propulsion gear-box and generators besides other things. The gas turbines are also in the process of being installed and the aircraft carrier is still half the tonnage.

The aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will have an endurance of 8,000 nautical miles and will be to carry a maximum of 30 aircraft. INS Vikrant will have long-range surface-to-air missile (LR SAM) systems with a multi-function radar, a close-in weapon system, the most modern C/D band early air-warning radar and the V/UHF tactical air-navigational and direction finding systems. The carrier will have two take-off runways and landing will be done using arrester wires. The ship’s integration with the Indian Navy’s network-centric operations will provide for force multiplication. The Indian Navy plans to equip INS Vikrant with a mix of MiG-29K / LCA Naval Variant currently being developed by state-owned Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). However, due to delays, an RFI (request for information) has been issued to several global aviation majors, including American Boeing, French Dassault and Russian MiG companies, for an alternate deck-based aircraft.

Regarding the delays in the indigenous aircraft project, it has been established that the delivery of gear boxes and associated systems had retarded the construction rate. There has also been decline in the supply of steel but the problem was overcome as Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) provided indigenous high-grade steel for the project. The quality of the gearbox was also sorted with a local Indian firm making the main gear-box with help from a German firm.

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