Test Launch of BARAK-8 Long Range Surface-To-Air Missile from a naval platform

Cochin Shipyard Limited MD says they need another 45 to 60 days to complete installation process; the ship has undergone five sets of sea trials

With the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant now joining the Navy, its builder, the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) has to complete the installation of the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM) system, and the MF-STAR (multi-functional digital active electronically scanned array) radar, according to senior shipyard officials. The Navy has stated that aviation trials are likely to begin by November.

“For us, the most important is the LR-SAM and MF-STAR installation and commissioning,” Madhu S. Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, CSL, told The Hindu. “As the Navy would now take over and start operationalising the aviation complex, we would be backing it up.”

Essentially, most of the installation has been completed. “When the flights start coming in, various tuning happen. Whatever is needed the shipyard would be backing it up,” he explained. “Certain other integrations would also be happening and that would also be done by the shipyard.”

“We need 45-60 days to complete their installation and the ship needs to be brought into the dry dock,” Mr. Nair elaborated on the timelines.

The ship also has a guarantee period which is typically one year but can go back or forth depending on the operational requirements of the Navy, Mr. Nair added.

Large parts of the aviation complex have been procured from Russia, another shipyard official said.

LR-SAM is a joint development by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel, and is manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited. MF-STAR is manufactured by the IAI and is also in service on other frontline warships of the Indian Navy.

INS Vikrant, which was commissioned into the Navy on September 2, has undergone five sets of sea trials since August 2021, which both the shipyard and Navy officials said were extremely successful. However, the aviation trials are to be carried out post-commissioning.

Explaining this, the Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral S.N. Ghormade said that since the full crew was not there before commissioning, all trials could be done. “After commissioning, when the complete crew is there, all systems are in place, only then aircraft landing trials happen, which is also a practice in advanced nations which build carriers,” he stated.

Designed by the Directorate of Naval Design and constructed by CSL, INS Vikrant, with a displacement of 42,800 tonnes, is powered by four General Electric engines and can carry an air wing of 30 helicopters, fighters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The keel was laid in 2009 and was launched into water in 2013.

The ship uses an aircraft-operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) for which it is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft, and a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard.

Initially, the carrier would be operating the existing Mig-29Ks in service, while a decision on the procurement of an advanced fighter, between the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Dassault Aviation Rafale, is expected in the next few months.

In the long term, a twin engine deck-based fighter, currently on the drawing board, is being developed by the DRDO.