A delay in the delivery of gear boxes and other systems has put the brakes on the construction of the country's first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL).

On account of this, the 40,000-tonne fleet air defence platform is a year behind schedule. The carrier, to be christened INS Vikrant, was to have been launched last year at 20,000 tonnes, as it cannot be launched at a higher displacement from the shipyard's building bay. As per the revised schedule, the launch of the ship is now slated for this year-end.

“There is a delay of one year [in the construction of IAC]. We are now planning to launch it by the end of this year,” Commodore K. Subramaniam, CSL Chairman and Managing Director, said at a press conference here on Friday. “The requirements of a carrier are far more complicated than those of merchant vessels,” he said adding that the shipyard looked forward to bagging more orders from the Navy. Meanwhile, The Hindu has learnt from its sources in the Navy that the carrier has taken on about 15,000 tonnes at the moment. “An indigenous aircraft is a major milestone for the country, but realising it is a humongous task,” said a top naval functionary. “The Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) have done a good job by making carrier-grade steel available. But there was some delay in delivery of equipment like sophisticated propulsion gear boxes and generators,” he said.

Gujarat-based Elecon Engineering Company Limited, which had designed and produced CODOG marine gear boxes for the Navy's Shivalik-class stealth frigates, ran into rough weather attempting to manufacture the huge main gearboxes for the carrier. “But they have been able to overcome the technical issues. Supply of steel is steady, but does not meet the quantity that we require,” said CSL sources.

The Navy, however, has thrown its weight behind the project and exudes confidence that the lessons learnt hard from a project of this magnitude—the first of its kind in the country—will be India's investment for future. “The ‘economic war potential' of many western countries is enormous. The industry there is ready with components and systems the moment the design of a project is frozen. We have so far adopted a piecemeal approach to project execution, which is changing now. Our industry needs to gear up for our defence requirements,” said another senior Navy officer.