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Indian Aircraft Carrier (Project-71)

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Project Update: Construction commenced with plate cutting on 11 April 2005. The keel was laid down on 28 Feb 2009. In an information session in Parliament, on 16 May 2007, Defence Minister A K Antony stated that induction of a third aircraft carrier is envisioned by 2017. He added that a decision to construct another vessel can be made only after the construction of the first ship has progressed beyond a certain state. This would suggest a keel laying date of post October 2010, which is the tentative launch date of the first ship. In an interview to the Times of India, dated 01 December 2007, the Chief of Naval Staff - Admiral Sureesh Mehta - stated that the second IAC is already on the drawing board and at least three such vessels are planned. The Admiral also indicated that the first IAC will not be delayed beyond 2012, contrary to reports of a revised delivery schedule of 2014 - 2015.

Vessel Type: Air Defence Ship, Project 71.


Future Commissions: Vikrant; Laid Down - 28 Feb 2009, Launch - Feb 2011, Commissioning - 2015.
............................Viraat; Laid Down - 2011, Launch - 2014, Commissioning - 2017.

Displacement: 37,500 tons - standard displacement.
....................40,000+ tons - full load (estimation).

Dimensions: Length - 260 meters (was 252 meters).
.................Beam - 60 meters (was 58 meters).
.................Draught - 8.4 meters.
.................Depth - 25.6 meters.
.................Flight Deck - 2.5 acres.

Main Machinery: The vessel will be powered by four General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines, generating a total power of 80 MW (~ 120,000 hp).

Maximum Speed: 28 knots.

Logistic Endurance: 45 days.

Maximum Range: 7500 nautical miles @ 18 knots.

Complement: 1200 - 1500 personnel (incl. 160 officers).

In 1989 a plan was announced to build two new aircraft carriers, with the first vessel to replace the Vikrant, which was set to decommission in early 1997. A contract for a design study then was signed in 1989 with DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales) International (currently known as DCNS) of France for a vessel of about 25,000 tons and with a speed of 30 knots. Construction was to start at the Cochin Shipyard (CSL) in 1993 after the Indian Naval Design Organisation had translated this design study into a production model. However, in 1991, the Committee on Defence Expenditure informed the Indian Navy to abandon plans for large aircraft carriers and shift the design effort to the Italian Garibaldi Class due to budgetary constraints. In September 1993, then-incumbent Chief of Naval Staff - Admiral L. Ramdas - restated the commitment to have a large aircraft carrier ready for trials by 2000, yet no firm decision had been made to provide funds or begin construction. By January 1997, the Vikrant was decommissioned and the Navy was left with it's only aircraft carrier - INS Viraat. Proposals for a 17,000-ton Air Defence Ship (ADS) were made, but still no firm decision had been taken to provide funds or begin construction. In a landmark decision, the government finally sanctioned construction of a 32,000-ton vessel on 14 June 1999 with the Navy receiving a formal letter of intent from the Cabinet Committee on Security. The decision came seven years after the designs were originally conceived.

The then-incumbent Chief of Naval Staff - Admiral Sushil Kumar - stated the vessel will be built at an estimated cost of Rs.20 billion at CSL. Another Rs.50 million will be spent on expanding CSL's shipyards warehousing space, extending its marshalling yard and acquiring new equipment as the vessel is the largest and broadest ship ever to built in India. In 2001, CSL released an image illustrating the 32,000-ton STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) design with a pronounced ski jump. The design of the 'island' (superstructure) and sensor suite was considerably different from the model displayed at Def Expo 1999. In February 2002, then-incumbent Chief of Naval Staff - Admiral Madhvendra Singh - stated that the commissioning of the ADS will take 8 to 10 years since CSL had not yet been modernized. On 20 March 2002, then-incumbent Defence Minister George Fernandes stated that the Navy had reassessed their requirement and proposed building a larger vessel displacing 37,500 tons, measuring 252 meters by 58 meters and with a top speed of 28 knots. In August 2006, then-incumbent Chief of Naval Staff - Admiral Arun Prakash - stated that the designation for the vessel has been changed from Air Defence Ship (ADS) to Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). He also stated that delivery to the Indian Navy will be within 7 to 8 years and that would suggest a commissioning date of 2014.

Jane's Defence Weekly (JDW) reported in late 2006, that construction of the vessel is expected to begin soon at CSL using the modular method of building compartment blocks. The JDW article quoted Rear Admiral Mohinder Kumar Badhwar, the Director General Naval Design who oversees the carrier building program, stating "After building some 120 of 800 blocks using the integrated hull outfit and painting (IHOP) approach, we will lay the carrier's keel in 2007. It will be launched by October 2010." Rear Admiral Badhwar also said that the vessel's commissioning has been delayed by around two years - to 2014 - due to steel acquisition problems. The difficulty in the acquisition of steel was resolved with the import of approximately 1000 tonnes of steel "bulb-bars" from Russia, which is essential to begin the vessel's construction, after the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) was unable to supply them. Naval officials stated that the cutting of steel for the vessel commenced in April 2005, but the project was subsequently delayed due to the lack of bulb bars. However, the officials were confident that SAIL and three other steel mills (two private and one public sector) who are collectively supplying around 20,000 tonnes of steel for the vessel, would be able to provide the additional 4000 tonnes of bulb bars required for the vessel.

Image © Indian Navy via Indian Defence Review (IDR)

A preliminary artist's impression of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) for the Indian Navy.

[Image © Indian Navy via Indian Defence Review]

Model of the 32,000-ton Indigenous Aircraft Carrier for the Indian Navy. This is a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) arrangement, with a ski-jump.

[Image © Cochin Shipyard Limited via Mrityunjoy Mazumdar]

Image © Cochin Shipyard Limited via Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

Image © Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

Artist rendition of the 37,500-ton Indigenous Aircraft Carrier for the Indian Navy. Other than the increased tonnage, the vessel is similar in design respects to the earlier 32,000-ton variant.

[Image © Mrityunjoy Mazumdar]

This last design iteration shows much influence from the Italian Navy's Andrea Dorea Class (currently known as the Cavour Class) aircraft carrier in that there is much sloping of the superstructure and ship sides. The vessel will be powered by four HAL-built General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines driving two shafts. With a 12 to 14º ski-jump, the vessel will have a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) arrangement on an angled flight deck with two aircraft elevators - one before the island and one after. In the STOBAR arrangement, the aircraft lands on the angled-flight deck and is stopped by arrester wires, of which three will be installed onboard. The air group will likely consist of a minimum of 12 combat aircraft such as the Naval LCA, the MiG-29K or the Sea Harrier Mk.51 / Mk.60, along with 10 helicopters likely consisting of the HAL Dhruv and/or the Sea King Mk.42. A pair of Ka-31 AEW helicopters would provide airborne early warning coverage. The vessel is estimated to carry as many as 30 aircraft on board, with 17 parked in the hanger below. Technical inputs, in respect of the MiG-29K's dimensions, will be provided by Russia which will also assist in the associated design work for aviation facilities such as the flight deck, hangar, aircrafts lifts, ammunition lifts, aircraft launch and recovery systems.

The most recent design has SAMs in VLS (Vertical Launch System) cells mounted on sponsons on either beam - the port side is to the aft of the ship while the starboard sponson is to the fore of the ship. Four OTO Melera 76mm Super Rapid dual purpose guns are mounted symmetrically on sponsons along the flight deck - two on the fore section and two at the fantail (stern). Preliminary sensor fit appears to show a Top Plate 3D radar on the mainmast and a large 3D radar antennae of a yet undetermined type, along with the usual SATCOM and Electronic Warfare antennae. CSL will use a modular approach to reduce construction time from nine years to around six to eight years. Vice Admiral Yashwant Prasad, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, stated that the delay in the construction of the vessel was caused by the sharp rise in the price of Russian steel and thus warship-grade steel was indigenously-developed by DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation) and SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited). Stating that this steel was a major breakthrough, Vice Admiral Prasad also mentioned that it will be used to build all future warships of the Indian Navy.

Defense News and Jane's Defence Weekly (JDW) both reported in July/August 2004, that the Ministry of Defence awarded a $30 million contract to Fincantieri's Naval Vessel Business Unit to help prepare concept, design and implementation plans for the vessel. The company will also provide designs to integrate the propulsion system, engine room layouts and overall validation of systems, besides conducting sea trials. DCN International (now DCNS) of France and Izar Construcciones Navales (now Navantia) of Spain also sent in their bids, however Fincantieri SpA of Italy was awarded the contract. This is an interesting development, since the contract for an original design study for the vessel was signed with DCNS in 1989. The design & construction of the Italian Navy's Cavour Class aircraft carrier, reportedly tipped the scales in favour of the Italian shipyard winning the contract. A team of IN and CSL engineers & technicians will work in tandem with their counterparts at Fincantieri in Italy over the next two years to finalise the vessel design, as well as its propulsion systems and main power plants. The company will provide technical assistance during the construction of the vessel and also during sea trials. Naval officials however stated that assistance from Fincantieri will continue until the vessel's commissioning. The hull and landing deck are to be built by Larsen & Tubro Limited.


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