It was a sight to behold. As India’s newest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya entered the Indian Navy’s area of operation in north western Arabian Sea, accompanied by three other vessels, it was rendezvoused — in Naval parlance RVed — with the Western Fleet that had gone all the way from Mumbai to receive it.
INS Vikramaditya, which was accompanied by INS Trikand, which is a Talwar class frigate, INS Delhi which is a Delhi class destroyer and INS Deepak, the fleet tanker, fired ceremonial guns to salute the flag of the fleet commander Rear Admiral Anand Chawla, who was leading the flotilla of the Western Fleet, that also comprised aircraft carrier INS Viraat.
The other ships besides INS Viraat which had gone to receive INS Vikramaditya included two Delhi class destroyers, three Trishul class stealth frigates, a Godavari class frigate and a couple of offshore vessels.
All this happened about 1200 nautical miles from the country's shores on New Year’s eve and thereafter all the aircraft carriers, frigates and destroyers together set sail for India.
INS Vikramaditya, which was commissioned into the Indian Navy on November 16 last at the North Russian shipyard of Sevmash at Severodvinsk, is now headed for its home port at Karwar in Karnataka where it is scheduled to reach in a week’s time.
Commanded by Captain Suraj Berry, INS Vikramaditya -- which took eight years to refurbish at the Russian yard -- would reach Karwar on completing a near 8500 nautical mile journey.
On reaching Karwar, the aircraft carrier would re-equip and prepare and get ready for the next phase which would be its integration with the air wing, comprising about 30 Mig 29K aircraft and six Kamov Ka-31 “Helix” reconnaissance and anti-submarine helicopters.
It would take around four to six months for the full integration of the aircraft carrier after which it will become the spearhead of the carrier battle group. During this period, the aircraft carrier would also be equipped with surface-to-air missile (SAM) and close-in weapon system (CIWS) to safeguard it from aerial attack.
At the time of commissioning of INS Vikramaditya Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi had indicated that Indian naval fighter pilots would be certified to carry out flying operations from the carrier deck within weeks of the carrier’s arrival in India.
While a batch of combat fliers from ‘Black Panther’ squadron has undertaken simulator training in Moscow, before the flying operations from the carrier deck, they are also scheduled to perfect take-off and landing on the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa.