New Delhi: The INS Vikrant, the largest warship (42,800 tons) made in India is ready and will be commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 2, but till the indigenously produced twin-engined fighter is developed and ready in a minimum of five to seven years and till the Rafale or the F-18 for the interim period is purchased, the Russian MiG-29K will have to deliver.
As Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Vice-Chief of Naval Staff said, there would be a dozen MiG-29K fighters on the Vikrant of the 40-odd currently available. The Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov) also has the same fighter on board. The Vikrant, to be commissioned after five rounds of sea-trials, will be a particularly welcome to the Navy as it will give it “reach” The only other carrier, the Vikramaditya, has been undergoing repairs for the last year or so. This is the era of increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean, the Navy has been looking for a carrier to ensure proper surveillance of vast areas.
The carrier, 76 per cent indigenous, gives the navy range, as it has an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles. Some of the numbers are truly staggering; for a ship of this size, it has a maximum speed of 28 knots. Apart from the 12-14 fighters, it will carry helicopters that can be used for anti-submarine warfare and other activities. The total number of warplanes and choppers at any given time will be over 30
There is already talk of a follow-on carrier, perhaps larger (about 65,000 tonnes) and Vice Admiral Ghormade said that discussions were going on with the government. There is a view, including within the armed forces, that a third carrier isn’t really necessary, but the government is still to take a final decision. He said it was “a matter of discussion.” What does not require discussion is that the next ship will be 100 per cent indigenous.
Work on the carrier began in 2009 with the keel laying. It was launched in 2013 and the basin trials were concluded in 2020. sea trials, including one in the Arabian Sea during the Monsoons, have been completed. It is quite a ship> For the crew of about 2,600 there is a chapati maker that makes 10,000 of them every day. The wiring inside the ship, put together, can stretch to Brazil, on the other side of the globe.
And importantly, a carrier can last anything between 40 to 50 years. This is the Navy’s fourth carrier, after the original INS Vikrant, the INS Viraat and the INS Vikramaditya.