The Navy has come under scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) for repeated delays in the construction of the first indigenous aircraft carrier in Kochi and for the underperformance of MiG-29K fighter jets which are to operate from it.
“It is evident from the PERT chart (September 2014) of Cochin Shipyard Ltd. that while the delivery of the carrier with completion of all activities is likely to be achieved only by 2023, the Ministry and the Indian Navy continue to hold the timelines of final delivery of the ship as December 2018,” the federal auditor noted in a report noted tabled in the Parliament.
The Navy envisages a force structure centred on three carrier strike groups with one carrier on each side of Peninsular India, while another is in refits and maintenance, giving enough muscle to project power in the Indian Ocean region. However, realising that seems to be nowhere in sight.
With INS Vikramaditya in service and INS Viraat likely to be decommissioned in 2016-17, continuous shifting of timelines of delivery of the indigenous aircraft carrier will adversely impact naval capabilities, the report said. In addition to delayed timelines, incorrect estimation of man-hour per tonne to be utilised for fabrication and outfitting in the Phase-I contract led to undue benefit of Rs. 476.15 crore to the shipyard.Progress report
In another serious observation, the CAG said the Ministry and the shipyard were not able to assess the physical state of construction of the ship due to non-inclusion of essential formats of progress reporting in the shipbuilding contracts.
The MiG-29Ks are the mainstay of India’s carrier air fleet and will remain so for several decades. The CAG found discrepancies in the performance of the aircraft and delivery schedule of the contracted aircraft.
“MiG29K, the chosen aircraft for the carrier, continues to face operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by-wire system,” the report said.
India had contracted 45 MiG-29K carrier-based fighters from Russia in two batches, 16 fighters in 2004 along with the contact for acquiring aircraft carrier Vikramaditya and another 29 fighters as a follow-on contract in 2010 for Vikrant. Of the 29, the last batch of six aircraft is scheduled to be delivered this year.
“The deliveries of the option clause aircraft scheduled between 2012 and 2016 are much ahead of the delivery schedule of the IAC in 2023, as projected by CSL,” the report noted.
On the issue of aircraft engines, the CAG said that as of September 2014, a total of 65 engines had been accepted of the 113 contracted by the Navy.