The second aircraft carrier’s design and capabilities will be similar to the IAC.
“This is certainly not the last indigenous aircraft carrier to be built. There will be at least another one in the near future,” Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said at the keel-laying function for the IAC at Cochin shipyard here on Saturday.
Way back in 1989, the Navy had conceived plans to build two indigenous aircraft carriers to replace the ageing INS Vikrant and eventually the INS Virat.
While the INS Vikrant joined the services in the early 1960s and was made into a museum after more than two decades in service, the INS Virat was commissioned in 1987.
Though the INS Virat was to retire in the ‘90s, the Navy is still operating the ageing carrier in the absence of a new one. The government sanction to build a 32,000-tonne carrier came in 1999, which was followed by four years of bitter debate between the Navy and the Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) on the design.
The indigenous aircraft carrier design was finally approved by the government in 2003 and Rs 3,261 crore was released to commence the work, part of which (Rs 200 crore) went to the CSL for improving its infrastructure as well.
Actual construction for the 40,000-tonne leviathan — the tonnage was upwardly revised from the original 37,500 tonnes — began in 2005 with the cutting of the high-grade steel supplied by Steel Authority of India Ltd.
There will be 874 blocks which will be assembled within the next 22 months so that the IAC can float by next year.
“We completed 423 blocks weighing about 8,000 tonnes and the rest will be done by the end of 2009. The assembling began with Saturday’s formal function,” said M Jitendran, chairman and managing director of CSL. After its sea launch in 2010, CSL will take another four years to equip the IAC with MiG-29 fighter and other weapons.
“We can start construction for the second carrier by 2009 if there is a fair amount of design similarity with the IAC. Construction time for such complex ship will be 4-5 years,” he said.
Similar to IAC
The second carrier is expected to be similar to the IAC as any bigger carrier will require an expensive change in the CSL dry dock and repair dock.
The carrier will have a mixture of 30 aircraft—MiG-29K and naval version of LCA as well as Ka-31 helicopters.
However, naval LCA is still on the drawing board and will take years before it can be accommodated on board IAC of other future carriers.
Maritime security under Navy authority
Kochi, DHNS: The Centre has designated the Navy as the sole authority responsible for the overall maritime security including coastal waters and offshore security.
The decision was announced by Defence Minister A K Antony here on Saturday.