The Navys much-delayed Vikramaditya aircraft carrier that is set to join the fleet in December could be vulnerable to air attacks as it will operate without air defence system for several months,if not a few years,a top Navy officer confirmed.
The carrier,currently undergoing final trials in Russia,will not have an air defence system when it begins its long journey to Indian shores in November and would be retrofitted with a close in weapon system (CIWS) only after its first refit or servicing in an Indian shipyard,according to Vice Chief of Navy Staff Vice Admiral R K Dhowan.
A CIWS system is needed on board large warships as the last protection measure against incoming missiles as well as aircraft. However,there is a deficiency of CIWS in India with the licence manufacturing of the AK 630 systems having just commenced. While the Navy has not specified when the CIWS would be fitted on board,the Vice Chief has said it would be integrated when the warship is scheduled for its first minor refit.
An internal audit report drawn up in 2009 came down heavily against the Navy for poor planning saying that as per plans,the CIWS would only be available by 2017,leaving the ship vulnerable to air attacks.
Even more alarmingly,the Vikramaditya will not even have a surface-to-air missile defence system on board for long range protection. The protection suite of the warship was planned to be the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM) system a joint collaboration between the Navy,Israel and DRDO.
However,this project too has faced huge delays and the system can only be fitted on board the Vikramaditya by 2016 at the earliest.