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July 9, 2014

Centre set to approve Rs 19,000 crore for INS Vikrant

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself witnessed the raw combat power exuded by an aircraft carrier sailing on the high seas last month, his government is now all set to approve the much-delayed infusion of funds to finish the ongoing construction of INS Vikrant at Cochin Shipyard.

Defence ministry sources say the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is slated to meet this week, probably on Wednesday itself, to approve the allocation of around Rs 19,000 crore for the Phase-II and III building of the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC).

Current estimates are that it will take around Rs 20,000 crore to construct the IAC, which is christened INS Vikrant after India's first carrier that was acquired from the UK in 1961 and later decommissioned in 1997.

The CCS will also approve the revised time-frame for commissioning of the 260-metre long INS Vikrant, whose keel was laid in 2009 after the project itself was approved way back in 2003. TOI was the first to report two years ago that the IAC would not be ready anytime before 2018, dashing the Navy's long-standing hopes of operating two powerful full-fledged "carrier battle groups" by 2014-2015.

Modi on June 14 had spent several hours on the 44,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, the second-hand Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov extensively refitted at a cost of $2.33 billion for India, in his first outstation visit after becoming the PM.

India is also acquiring 45 MiG-29K naval fighters worth over $2 billion from Russia, which are meant to operate both from INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. India does also have the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat but it's over 55-years-old and is left with just 11 Sea Harrier jump-jets to operate from its deck.

The CCS note for "approving INS Vikrant's cost and timeframe" was ready last year itself but the previous UPA regime failed to give it the formal go-ahead. Around 75% of the carrier's basic structure, including the hull and deck, has been completed till now at a cost of around Rs 3,500 crore.

"The underwater work is finished. The superstructure, the upper decks, the cabling, sensors, weapons etc have to be integrated now. Most of the equipment has already been ordered. It will be powered by four American LM2500 gas turbines," said a source.

India is among a select club of countries like the US, Russia, UK and France that are capable of building such large warships. There is also an over 60,000-tonne IAC-II in the planning stage, which may have nuclear propulsion like American carriers. The US has as many as 11 nuclear-powered Nimitz-class ``super-carriers'', each over 94,000-tonne and capable of carrying 80-90 fighters. 
 
- Times of india

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