Keel-laying of indigenous aircraft carrier in December

S. Anandan

Construction right on course using integrated hull outfitting method

Kochi: Laying of keel for India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), originally named Air Defence Ship (ADS), will take place at the Cochin Shipyard in December this year when a major construction block will be lowered into the building bay.

“We are looking forward to completing close to 400 of the total 900 blocks by the time the keel is laid. And the tonnage would be about 8,000 tonnes,” sources told The Hindu.

Despite the initial hiccups caused by non-availability of warship-grade steel, the construction is right on course using the integrated hull outfitting and painting method.

It is concurrent engineering with regard to design and construction, and steel is sourced “primarily” from the Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

“The idea is to launch it in 2010 when it would have completed some 20,000 tonnes, including hull, as it cannot be launched at a higher displacement from the building bay. After about a year’s building in the refit dock, it would be launched again when every major component and everything underwater would be in place. Only outfitting would remain. If everything goes as per the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) plan, it should touch the waters in 2013,” sources said.

Originally, the carrier was to have been built by 2012. But a delay in arrival of indigenous steel — after efforts to import steel from Russia ran aground — caused it to be a year behind schedule. After steel was cut for the construction in April, 2005, there was considerable delay.

“But the country got a definite shot in the arm as we have been able to indigenously manufacture ABA-grade quality steel (which is six times stronger than the steel used for building ships). This will stand us in good stead when we embark on construction of the second carrier soon after this. Besides, this has tremendously brought down the overall construction cost,” said a Navy officer associated with warship production.

With crucial inputs from the Hyderabad-based Defence Metallurgical Research laboratory, and overall supervision of the Naval Design Bureau, SAIL, along with Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi, Krishna Industries, Nagpur and Bajrang Alloys, Raipur, has been able to “open a new frontier” in carrier building technology by fashioning the requisite quality steel, a Navy engineer said.

The Naval Materials Research laboratory, Mumbai, developed the welding technology besides carrying out corrosion-proofing of welded steel. Although about 4,000 tonnes of bulb bars required by the vessel is imported from Russia, a relatively smaller quantity is rolled and readied by Krishna Industries.

As per the original plan, the carrier would have the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) Dhruv in its fleet of 30 assorted aircraft besides MiG 29 K and Ka-31.

“By the time the IAC is commissioned, the naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Tejas) would also be ready,” said a Navy engineer. Further, with the Navy now on the lookout for replacement for its ageing Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter Sea King beyond the ALH, some changes in the carrier fleet composition are anticipated. Russian News agency, RIA Novosti, has reported that India would be buying 30 more MiG 29 Ks and two-seater MiG 29 KUBs apart from the 12 it would receive as per a 2004 contract.

“The STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) carrier will have a versatile deck from which any aircraft, MiG 29 downwards, could operate,” said a Navy officer.

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