The long-delayed aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya will be inducted into the Indian Navy on November 16.
The past: Indias first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant,a Majestic class ship acquired from the UK,was commissioned on March 04 1961. The second,INS Viraat,a Centaur class carrier,came into service more than two decades later in 1987.
A new carrier: Negotiations for acquiring the 44,500 ton Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier started in 1994 after the ship was put up on offer by Russia. Indian Naval and scientific delegations assessed the ship and concluded that despite it being unused for years,the ships hull was in good material state.
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A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in December 1998 during a visit by the then Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. An Inter-Governmental Agreement was sealed on October 04 2000. After prolonged negotiations,the contract was inked on January 20,2004 and the cost was agreed at Rs 4881.67 crore for the ship,spares,infrastructure augmentation and documentation. As per the contract,it was scheduled to be completed within 52 weeks at the Sevmash shipyard.
However,once the work began it came to light that the scope of the project would be needed to be increased tremendously as several parts that were being opened, were found malfunctioning and needed replacement. The entire length of cable,large portions of steel hull,motors,turbines and boilers had to be replaced,adding cost and time escalation.
After a renegotiation,additional costs were agreed to in December 2009 with the ship to be delivered in 2012.
The history of the ship: The carrier originally was a Kiev class aircraft carrying cruiser named Baku that was constructed in Ukraine. The ship was never supposed to carry conventional fixed-wing fighters like the MiG 29 K,but was designed for Vertical Take off and Landing (VTOL) fighters. Commissioned in December 1987,the Baku was heavily armed with twelve Anti-Ship Missile launchers,ten gun mounts of differing calibre and rocket launchers and depth charges. The air element comprised Yak-38 aircraft. The Baku was renamed as the Admiral Gorshov in Nov 1990 and remained in service till 1996.
Project 11430: After being offered to India,the Gorshkov was converted from a carrier,designed to operate VTOL aircraft,to a STOBAR (Short take off but arrested recovery) class of carriers. This involved a massive redesign and modifications including changing the flight deck to include ski-jump and arrester gear; modification of bulbous bow.
In all,1950 of the 2500 compartments in the ship were to be modified and new boilers,generators,distilling plants,sensors and warfare equipment had to be put in.
To accommodate MiG 29 K fighters,a new 14 degree Ski jump was set up and strengthening of arresting gear area and runway was carried out. The steel work for carrying out structural modification on flight deck amounted to over 2500T.
The major part that led to time delay was the replacement of cables. While initially,only 1400 km of old cables were estimated to be in need for a replacement,during the work an additional 900 km of cables were found damaged. The total cabling work that has gone into the ship is now over 2300 km,as the Navy points out that is just short of half of the entire coastline of India. Finally after years of work,Vikramaditya sailed for the first time under own power in Jun 12,after a gap of about 17 years.
The Modern Ship: STOBAR Carrier
Stretching as much as three football fields put together and standing 20 storeys tall from keel to the highest point,the Vikramaditya is the largest ever ship to be operated by the Indian Navy.
It will be a floating city with over 1,600 personnel on board. The logistics requirements of such a large crew are also massive. It is estimated that every month,the ship and its crew will require nearly a lakh of eggs,20,000 litres of milk and 16 tonnes of rice per month. If fully stocked up,the carrier can sail for 45 days and has the capability of running operations up to a range of over 13000 km.
The ship has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier,Kamov 31,Kamov 28,Sea King,ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters.
It also has a modern communication complex,CCS MK II and the Link II tactical data system that will allow it to be fully integrated with the Indian Navys network centric operations.
However,missing from the carrier are two very vital systems both designed to protect it from threats in the sky,the most primary danger to aircraft carriers. Both the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM) system and the Close in Weapons Suite (CIWS) have not been installed. The LRSAM ,being deigned with help from Israel,is running more than a year behind time and will likely not be fitted before 2017. The CIWS too designed for close in support will not be installed for at least two more years. This has left the ship vulnerable to air attacks,even though it will always move in a battle group with other ships protecting her.
Displacement: 44,500 Ton
Length OA: 284 metre
Maximum Beam: 60 m
Speed: over 30 kts
04 propellers powered by 08 Boilers
Aircraft component: MiG 29K,Kamov 31,Kamov 28,Seaking,ALH,Chetak