Sea trials of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya have commenced after it underwent major refits and maintenance for nearly 15 months at Karwar naval base in Karnataka. The Russian- made warship is likely to be handed over to the Indian Navy on March 31. The ship is likely to be fully operational for active deployment by April end.

Giving details here on Monday, navy officials said the sea trials have commenced off Karwar after it had to undergo refit starting December 2021. The ship was inducted into service in 2014. While sea trials are on, fighter jet flying will take place in mid-April to test the readiness of the aircraft carrier for landing and take-offs of the planes, sources said. MIG-29Ks operate from the 45,000 ton ship. Once fully operational, India will have two aircraft carriers including the indigenously designed and built INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted INS Vikrant into the Navy in September last year. It will be based at Visakhapatnam.

While the test air operations of INS Vikramaditya will begin in April, various checks of armaments and surface-to-air missile systems onboard will begin in March itself. The warship carries a maximum of 36 aircraft including 26 MiG-29K fighters and 10 Kamov Ka-31 advance electronic warning (AEW) and Ka-28 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The two aircraft carriers will add muscle to the Indian Navy’s operational capabilities to counter China which has adopted an aggressive stance in the strategically crucial Indo-Pacific region.

Moreover, China has increased its maritime presence in the crucial Indian Ocean region since 2008 and India is taking all measures to counter this emerging challenge.