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INS Vikramaditya has might but little protection against air attacks

Vikramaditya will be the only ship of its class to not have air defence systems.

Written by Manu Pubby | Severodvinsk |
November 16, 2013 2:19:30 am

With Russia ready to hand over INS Vikramaditya to India on Saturday,the aircraft carrier has put its troubled past behind. Besides successfully conducting maneuverability and speed trials,it also performed its the main function — aircraft operations — quite well. As many as 88 glitch-free landings of the MiG 29 K fighter have taken place on the ship,three with Indian officers on board.

Unfortunately,due to a combination of planning and developmental delays,the aircraft carrier will,ironically,have little defence against air attacks. Unlike all other carriers in the world,Vikramaditya will be the only ship of its class to not have air defence systems — either missiles or close in weapons.

The only protection it will have against incoming aircraft till 2017 (as per estimates) will be electronic systems. Hence,one of the more interesting demonstrations conducted this year was of the ASOR Russian electronic warfare system fitted on the carrier. Those who participated said the ship’s sensors picked up incoming aircraft at a distance of 350 km and,in some cases,even 400 km.

During trials,the ship’s electronic warfare systems defeated all incoming aircraft by blinding them with directed energy. “Not a single aircraft managed to detect the ship when systems were in use. The only way they could find the ship was when it got into visible range,” said Igor Leonav,Chief Commissioner of Sevmash.

Several aircraft,including Su 33 fighters,MiG 29 Ks,IL 38s and Kamov choppers,were used to test the electronic warfare systems. But this is the only defence against air attacks,other than the last stage Pk2m chaff/flare launchers used as decoys when incoming missiles home in.

Both the Israeli LR SAM system and the Indian made close in weapon system are delayed and will be fitted after a few years. The LR SAM project was to be operational in 2012,but even the first firing of the missile has not taken place so far. As per plans,the Indian Navy wanted to place both these systems after the carrier was delivered.

“It was a decision of the Indian Navy not to install the systems as of now. We offered the carrier with the Kashtan systems and a year ago,we had a discussion on installing the AK 630 close in weapon system. But a decision on this has not been taken by the Indian side yet,” Sergey Vlasov,Director General of the Nevskoe Design Bureau,the chief designer of the Vikramaditya,said.

The Navy is counting on the fact that the carrier will function in a group where other frigates and destroyers will carry adequate air defence systems to defeat attacks.

Sindhurakshak: Experts say mishap cause can still be found

The Indian Navy has been facing criticism for failing to get the ill-fated Sindhurakshak submarine out of the water even three months after it blew up while docked in Mumbai but Russian submarine experts say that even after spending so much time underwater,the cause of the accident can be ascertained through careful forensic examination as well as studying the sequence of events leading to the multiple blasts.

Terming the going down of the submarine as a “personal loss”,experts at the Zvezdochka shipyard that upgraded the vessel months here before the incident say that all possible help will be rendered to examine the matter if the Indian Navy sends a formal request to join the investigation.

“Some of the people who died in accident were in Russia for the process of refit. We knew them very well and it is a big personal loss for us as well. The most important thing is that such tragedies do not happen again. The shipbuilders as well as those who operate it must understand what has happened and the causes that led to it for safe operations in the future,” said Alexey S Gavzov,head of contract preparation and maintenance department of the shipyard said.

While the Indian submarine went down months after a long upgrade in Severodvinsk,the Indian side had not blamed the shipyard for the loss and in a show of confidence,is set to place an order for a second life upgrade for two more Kilo class submarines at the Zvezdochka shipyard shortly. This upgrade will extend the life of two older Kilo class submarines by another ten years.

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