India’s long-delayed carrier is set to enter the water next week while the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government has approved more money for development of the second indigenous carrier, according to local press reports.
The 40,000-ton INS Vikrant is set to launch from the Cochin Shipyard in the southwest on May 28 following a dry dock period after the initial launch ceremony of the ship in 2013.
“All major equipment has gone into the vessel, which has now acquired the shape of an aircraft carrier, with a finished hull,” said a yard official to The Hindu earlier this month.
“Barring a bit of ongoing work on the super structure, structural work is all over and the internal compartments have all been welded in.”
Construction woes have dogged Vikrant — which was originally awarded to Cochin in 2005 — delaying the ship by five years with reported budget overruns as high as $4 billion.
The program was largely stalled until 2014 when the newly elected Modi backed a plan to inject almost $3.18 billion into completing Vikrant in July following a visit to India’s Russian built carrier — INS Vikramaditya
The Modi government has reportedly put more support behind India’s domestic carrier program as a hedge against an expansionist China. Beijing has reportedly has moved to build their own indigenous carriers for People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) following their acquisition of the Soviet-era Liaoning.
In addition to the relaunch of Vikrant, the Modi government has also set aside about $5 million for development of the indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II) program — INS Vishal, according to local press reports.
The planned 65,000-ton Vishal is set to be a much more complex ship than its predecessors and could introduce nuclear power and a catapult launching system for the carrier to launch heavier aircraft than India’s current crop of MiG-29K
Vikrant India’s current carriers — Vikramaditya and the 50 year-old carrier INS Viraat, the former British carrier Hermes — are convieitnally powered and launch aircraft via a much simpler short-take off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) system marked by a so-called “ski jump” feature at the bow.
The Indian’s have expressed interest in the General Atomics Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) that has been installed on the U.S. Gerald R. Ford nuclear carrier.
To that end, the U.S. and India announced a greater degree of cooperation in development of carrier technology.
The two countries agreed to “explore” sharing carrier technology and design and establish a working group under a larger January bilateral agreement.
Under the most recent timelines, Vikrant will become operational in 2018 and the more complex Vishal could commission as early as 2033.
INS Viraat is slated to decommission next year.