January 8, 2014 3:25:42 pm
India’s newest and biggest ever warship, the INS Vikramaditya, on Tuesday arrived at its home port of Karwar in Karnataka after an uninterrupted six-week sail from northern Russia.
The 44,500-ton aircraft carrier, which has been under a nine year refit in Russia, docked at the naval base on Tuesday evening.
The aircraft carrier, which undertook the long sail home without any armament or combat aircraft on board, will over the next few months get integrated with the Western Naval Command.
At its home port of Karwar, celebrations have been planned for the arrival of the warship, with the families of over 1600 sailors on board waiting to meet their loved ones after several months.
The crew of the warship had gone to the Russian town of Severodvinsk last year for training.
With the ship now at its home base, preparations have been made to ensure that it is operationalised at the earliest. The ship currently does not have its main armament — the MiG 29 K fighters — and merely has a small chopper complement on board for utility missions. The plan now is to start with the first landings and takeoffs of the fighters on board Vikramaditya within a few weeks.
While Russian aviators have landed and taken off from the carrier during trials in Russia, no Indian pilot has been qualified yet for deck operations.
At present, Indian pilots are being trained on simulators to operate from the confines of the small flight deck. A shore-based training facility in Goa, where the MiG 29 K fighter squadrons will be based, is also set to start training pilots on landing and taking off from the carrier. The facility is a replica of the Vikramaditya flight deck — for both taking off from a ski jump and landing with arrestor wires.
The certification of both pilots and air controllers has to be completed before the ship can formally join the fleet. A team of around 83 Russian personnel, who sailed with the ship, will remain in Karwar over the next year as part of the one year guarantee of the Sevmash shipyard.
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