Indigenous carrier INS Vikrant will be fully operational by year-end: Navy Chief

We may have 45 indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter jets by 2040, he said

Updated - February 15, 2023 10:55 pm IST

Published - February 15, 2023 10:39 pm IST - BENGALURU

INS Vikrant, displacing 42,800 tonnes, was commissioned into the Navy last September.

INS Vikrant, displacing 42,800 tonnes, was commissioned into the Navy last September. | Photo Credit: ANI

The country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which is currently undergoing aviation trials, will be fully operational by year-end.

All-out efforts are on to make it fully operational by the end of 2023, Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar said on Wednesday. The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy) and Mig-29K carried out their maiden landings on the carrier earlier this month.

“We see another two months of trials in which, in addition to the instrumented aircraft, other aircraft will start landing… MF-STAR [multi-functional digital active electronically scanned array radar] fitment will commence from May onwards and should take 3-4 months time. During that time, she will also undergo some guarantee refit activity. Thereafter, once the monsoon gets over, she will be operationally ready,” Admiral Kumar said, in response to a question from The Hindu at Aero India. He added that it was an accomplishment that the LCA-Navy landed on the INS Vikrant within six months of its commissioning, also expressing satisfaction with the overall performance of the ship.

INS Vikrant, displacing 42,800 tonnes, was commissioned into the Navy last September.

Need for new jet

In January 2020, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had successfully demonstrated an arrested landing of LCA-Navy on INS Vikramaditya. However, the Navy had projected a requirement for a twin engine aircraft with reasonable combat payload and range to operate from the carriers. So the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under DRDO embarked on developing a Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) with a weight of 26 tonnes and wing folding, based on the experience of the LCA-Navy.

On this, Admiral Kumar said that in their discussions with the ADA, DRDO and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, they were quite confident that by 2026, they should be able to develop the prototype and keep doing the trials and bring it to production levelst by 2031-32. “We may be able to get 45 aircraft by 2040. That is as far as indigenous aircraft are concerned,” he said, stating that this would still leave a gap as the existing carrier compatible MIG-29K jets may not last till then.

That is why we are looking at the acquisition of multi-role carrier-based aircraft, Mr. Singh said, adding that the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation Rafale-M were also evaluated. Stating that the evaluation report took sometime and both the aircraft were very close in performance, Adm Kumar said the final selection, for 26 jets, is a Government decision and the deal would probably be through a Government-to-Government agreement.

The TEDBF project is expected to get approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security shortly, along with the AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) project for the development of a 5th generation fighter jet.

‘Self-reliant by 2047’

On the ongoing indigenisation effort in the Navy, Admiral Kumar said that ship building can be categorised into three components: float, love and fight. Currently, they are at float 95%, move 65% and fight between 50-55%, he said, adding, “We have promised the political leadership that the Indian Navy will be fully self-reliant by 2047.” Installation of the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) system and the MF-STAR radar are pending, as the carrier has to be taken into the dry-dock, as reported earlier.

The LR-SAM is a joint development by DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and is manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). MF-STAR is manufactured by IAI and is also in service on other frontline warships on the Indian Navy.

The 262 m long and 62 m wide INS Vikrant is powered by four General Electric LM2500 engines, which give it a maximum speed of 28 Knots and an endurance of 7500 nautical miles.

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