An aerial view of India's 1st indigenous aircraft carrier INS VIKRANT under construction at CSL

The termed basin trials — was initially scheduled to begin on March 12 at Cochin Shipyard (CSL), where INS Vikrant has been constructed. However, several construction delays caused that to be moved back to April. Then, with the COVID-19 pandemic locking down the delay is expected to extend further to next year

Indian Navy is operating with a single aircraft carrier—INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-ton carrier bought from Russia.

A week in Nov 2019 after satellite images of China’s second aircraft carrier that was docked at Yulin Naval base at the southern tip of Hainan Island and is all set to join the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) soon surfaced, Indian Navy has pressed Cochin Shipyard to deliver country's first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at the earliest. INS Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tons, is being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited.

The Navy had asked the Cochin Shipyard to adhere to its deadline, as the project has already missed its multiple deadlines. The way Chinese navy is expanding, the shipyard also need to expedite the project.

The Navy was expecting delivery of IAC Vikrant by February 2021. Then, its aviation trials will take at least a year to complete before its formal induction into the Navy's fleet. The Navy expected the shipyard to meet this new deadline. The long-delayed warship was scheduled to be ready by the end of 2018, but due to delay in procuring multiple equipment from Russia, the delivery date has been extended.

The IAC was scheduled to be launched in water by 2010, but it could be launched only in August 2013, after three years of delay. According to a Naval official, the design of IAC-1, with the cost of Rs 3,500 crore, was initially approved by the ministry of defence in 2003, but the construction began only in 2005 in Cochin Shipyard.

With its length of 260 meters, the warship would have two take-off runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires, capable of operating a STOBAR (short take off but arrested delivery) aircraft and a range of helicopters. Twenty MiG 29K fighter jets and 10 helicopters will be deployed on the aircraft carrier.

With this, India will join the elite group of indigenous built aircraft carrier. At present, only the US, Russia, Britain and France have capacity to design and build aircraft carriers of 40,000 tonnes and heavier.

However, the long wait for India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is set to be even longer. Senior naval sources say the COVID-19 pandemic has set back the start of trials by at least six months — perhaps more if the lockdown and travel restrictions continue.

Our Bureau