As aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya gets ready to sail out of the dockyard after a long refit, the Indian Navy is finalising plans to repeat the order for an INS Vikrant-size Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-2, with some modifications, which, given the long timelines, may be close to the time INS Vikramaditya leaves service, effectively becoming its replacement. While placing a repeat order for the INS Vikrant-sized carrier, the Navy will continue to study the need for a larger and more capable carrier, according to the Navy chief, Admiral R. Hari Kumar.
“If we have to design a new carrier, it will take time and we need to bring in new technologies because the present arresting gear and catapult system are undergoing changes. It will be an entirely new design and the ship-building facilities have also to be upgraded. So we thought, if we went for the repeat order of [ INS] Vikrant, the work would start very soon. The case will go faster, work can start immediately, and cost will also be little less, and we can make some improvements,” Admiral Kumar said, speaking at the Aero India show last week. Operationally, new technologies and drones are coming in that can be launched and recovered from the carrier, which can enhance operational capabilities, he noted.
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Elaborating, he said the earlier plans were that the IAC-2 should be bigger than IAC-1. INS Vikrant’s size is around 44,000 tonnes and the IAC-2 planned was around 65,000 tonnes. The Indian Navy requires three aircraft carriers because when the ship undergoes maintenance, it takes time given it’s very big size, and there may also be delays. Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) has acquired considerable expertise in building an aircraft carrier with INS Vikrant and that would not go idle on a repeat order, Admiral Kumar said, adding, “That can also be utilised.”
“So, we are of the view that we will go for repeat order with improved capabilities and, in the meantime, we will study if we need to go for a larger carrier. Till a third aircraft carrier gets ready and is commissioned, INS Vikramaditya may also come to the end of its lifetime. Then we would need to build another carrier,” Admiral Kumar stated.
CSL officials have expressed confidence that once the order is placed, they could build another INS Vikrant-sized carrier with minor modifications within eight years.
The country’s first IAC, INS Vikrant, was commissioned in September 2022 and is currently undergoing aviation trials. It is expected to be operationally ready by the end of 2023. The 262m-long and 62m-wide INS Vikrant, displacing 44,800 tonnes, is powered by four General Electric LM2500 engines, which give it a maximum speed of 28 knots and an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles.
The ship uses an aircraft-operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), for which it’s equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft, and a set of three “arrester wires” for their recovery onboard. Earlier, the Navy had envisaged an IAC-2 with a displacement of 65,000 tonnes, Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) for launching aircraft, and full electric propulsion.
INS Vikramaditya, which has been undergoing a refit since December 2020, had a fire onboard in July 2022 that delayed its return to active service, in addition to delays in supplies from Russia, for which CSL and the Indian Navy reached out to local industry. It is now ready and will sail out anytime, officials said.