Amidst report of the Defence Acquisition Council granting Rs.30 crore to the Indian Navy to start working on a second indigenous aircraft carrier, it has emerged that Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), which is constructing the first indigenous carrier INS Vikrant, has urged the Navy to place an order with it for a follow-on carrier of Vikrant-class.
Vikrant is set for undocking from CSL’s building bay later this month.
The CSL is learnt to have assured the Navy in end-2014 that in case a follow-on order for a carrier is placed, it would be able to deliver the vessel in just four years from the time of delivery of INS Vikrant, scheduled to take place in 2018. The Navy has not responded to the proposal yet. “A follow-on carrier would be advantageous for the Navy, as there would be no time lost on detailed design, development of specialised material, technology, honing of skills of the workforce and so on. Since the Navy desires to operate two carrier task forces at any given time, it would be a good option to exercise,” said a CSL official.
“The carrier INS Viraat is retiring [next year] and the refurbished 45,000-tonne INS Vikramaditya [undergoing a short refit now] will be joined by the 40,000-tonne INS Vikrant a few years from now. Should there be a second Vikrant-class carrier with the same specifications and equipment, it could be operationalised in early or mid-2020s. It makes perfect sense as two carriers would always be operational even as the third remained under refit,” he added.
The lead time taken for the construction of INS Vikrant was in sync with the global average of nine years, said another official. “The follow-on vessels of a class always take much shorter periods to deliver,” he contended. However, a senior Navy officer told The Hindu that the force had firmed up the plans to have a super carrier displacing 65,000 tonnes after Vikrant. It would most likely be nuclear-propelled, with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, widely referred to as EMALS catapult, and would embark a whole new fleet of naval fighters, he said. CSL’s proposed larger dry-dock capable of taking on ships of any size would be ready by the time the Navy floats the tender for a second carrier.