India will launch its first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Monday, making an entry into a select club of countries capable of designing and building a carrier of this size and capability.
Defence Minister A K Antony's wife Elizabeth will launch the 37,500 tonne carrier at Kochi shipyard close to four-and-a-half years after its keel was laid by the minister.
Other countries capable of designing and building an equivalent size ship are the US, the UK, Russia and France.
The launch will mark the end of the first phase of its construction and it will then be re-docked for outfitting and construction of superstructure.
It is set to go for extensive trials till 2016 before being inducted into the Navy by 2018 end, as per its schedule.
Mig29K, Light Combat Aircraft and Kamov 31 could fly from the carrier.
The launch would be the "crowning glory" of Indian Navy's indigenisation programme, said Vice-Admiral R K Dhowan, the Vice-Chief of Naval Staff.
Apart from domestic design and manufacturing work, it is the high grade warship steel made by the Steel Authority of India which has been used for building the ship.
The indigenous component in the warship would be approximately anywhere between 80 and 90 per cent in floating department, up to 60 per cent in movement and not more than 30 per cent in fighting component of the carrier.
The ship, which will be a length of 260 m and breadth of 60 m, has been designed by Directorate of Naval Design and is being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited.
Its production work had commenced in November 2006. Controller Warship Production and Acquisition Vice Admiral K R Nair told reporters on board the massive vessel, "We have built 6000-7000 tonnage capacity ships so far. This is 37,500 tonnes."
"The gas turbine ship will be operating MIGs and other aircraft," he said.
On the challenges faced during construction of the ship, he said there were quite a few problems. Availability of steel, problems with acquisition of machines were some of them. Most of the equipment has gone on board while the weapons have to be inducted.
"Its tonnage and complexity is very important. It has got ski jump from where aircraft will take off. It will operate 25-30 aircraft -- including Mig 29K and light combat aircraft," he said.
Cochin Shipyard Chairman and Managing Director, Commodore K Subramaniam, said the second phase construction has already started. The aircraft carrier was the most 'challenging' work the shipyard, which had so far constructed only commercial vessels, had undertaken, he said. With the launch of the ship, the first phase would be completed.
The second phase will see the detailed laying of electrical cables, ventilation systems and setting up of about 2,300 compartments. This phase will take four years to be completed, Commodore Subramaniam said.
"Initially we were not planning to have ski jump. That was not part of the original first phase. But the Navy wanted it. So it was included," he said.
The Super structure's first tier has been fitted. Another four tiers would be ready by 2014, he said.
Shipping Minister G K Vasan will preside over the function in which Naval chief D K Joshi would also be participating.
Eight diesel generators and four gas turbines, have already been installed which can generate about 24 MW power capable of lighting up the entire Kochi city, Suresh Kumar, General Manager (Planning) Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) said.
There are two take-off points -- one long take-off runway and one short besides a landing point, he said.
Heavy monsoon rains had affected completion of the works.
Fresh coat of paint and colourful lights have been put up for the grand launching ceremony tomorrow.
The workers of the shipyard are also excited. Govindankutty and Ravindran, both from the quality control department, said this was a great moment for them as they had been working tirelessly since the past four years.
On board the ship, 850-1000 workers had been on the job daily since February-March this year to complete the works on schedule.
The contract for the construction of the aircraft carrier was signed with the navy in 2007 and the keel laid in February 2009.
"This bears great significance to Indian Navy. It makes India only the fifth country after the US, Russia, Britain and France to have such capabilities," Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, Vice-President of China's Naval Research Institute, told the state-run CCTV on Monday.
The Indian Navy will have lead over China as it will have two aircraft carriers by the end of this year with INS Vikramaditya, the refitted carrier from Russia joining INS Viraat, which is already in service even though Vikrant was expected to be operational by 2018, he said.
"Which means by the end of this year India will become the only country in Asia to have two aircraft carriers. This will enhance the overall capabilities especially the power projection capabilities of the Indian Navy," Zhang said.
Ruling out any race for more carriers in the region, Zhang defended India and China having more carriers since they have vast coasts and huge populations and the importance of defending the sea lanes far from home due to dependence on external trade.
In 2012, China had launched its first aircraft carrier, Lioning. Its hull was imported from Ukraine and refurbished in China.
China also subsequently launched J-15 aircraft to operate from its deck. The ship with over 50,000 tonnes displacement will have about 30 aircraft on its deck.
China is reportedly building two more aircraft carriers but their schedules are not known yet.
Zhang earlier told the state-run China Daily that with Vikrant, the Indian navy will be more capable of patrolling distant oceans.
"India's first self-made carrier, along with reinforced naval strength, will further disrupt the military balance in South Asia," he said.
India is very likely to quicken its pace to steer eastward to the Pacific, where the US and China are competing to dominate.
The launch of the Vikrant as well the first nuclear submarine Arihant also aroused the curiosity and concerns among analysts from different state-run think tanks in China.
"The new indigenous carrier will further strengthen India's naval power and also add some bargaining chips with the world's major military vendors such as Russia," Wang Daguang, a researcher of military equipment based in Beijing told the Daily.
Song Xiaojun, a military commentator in Beijing, said the Vikrant uses technology from the 1980s and thus serves as an experiment for the Indian Navy to set technical standards for future vessels.
sources : the indian express