Two months after it was floated out at a ceremony at Cochin Shipyard India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has now been taken to the bigger, repair dock of the yard for the second phase of construction.
Launched at 17,500 tonnes with the ski-jump in place, the carrier will displace 40,000 tonnes once it is fully built and fitted out. Structural work on the fleet’s air defence platform — including entire hull work, angle deck and island structure, all using about 4,000 tonnes of steel — is slated to be over by May next, when it will be undocked for integration of the crucial aviation complex, complete with hangars, hydraulics, command-control and the like.
Basin trials of the carrier will happen in the last phase, set to commence in 2017.
While the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioned Rs. 3,261 crore for the first phase of carrier construction, it is reliably learnt that the CCS is contemplating sanction of nearly Rs. 2,600 crore by way of cost to Cochin Shipyard for the crucial second phase.
The work-share arrangement for Vikrant construction under the Navy’s Project 71 is such that the Navy sources and supplies all equipment and material, with the yard’s role largely limited to formulating the detailed plan and putting it in place, under the Navy’s supervision.
“It will be a real challenge for the yard once the hull construction gets over. The Navy will do some hand-holding when it comes to weapon integration. But the yard has to also set up fully integrated command-control networks like platform management and communication systems, which will be a real test of its capability, skill and adaptability,” said a defence official on condition of anonymity. Being a large vessel, the Vikrant will have some 2,500 km of cabling and nearly 70 km of pipe-network.
While work is apace to lay out cables and wires, obsolescence of equipment already delivered and kept in store for a few years is troubling the yard.
Some of the equipment, including the huge gas turbines, will have outlived their guarantee period by the time they go into the vessel and will be ready for trials.
“It will be a phase fraught with teething troubles. That the equipment on trial would be past their guarantee date is a little worrisome,” said an official.