Navy to induct Vikrant by Oct 2020

Navy to induct Vikrant by Oct 2020

Indian Navy has set a target of October 2020 to commission its second aircraft carrier Vikrant, which is under construction at the Cochin shipyard.

"Our commissioning target is October 2020. We are confident of meeting the deadline as the trial schedules have been worked out. The trials would start by the end of 2018 or early 2019. Several trials would happen at the harbour itself," Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, controller of personnel services at the naval headquarters said here on Friday.

The assertion from one of the top Navy officers comes little more than a year after a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) that recorded a plea from the shipyard to shift the delivery date to a more realistic target of 2023.

The shipyard's proposal, however, was not acceptable to the Navy, which is currently operating only one aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

Hari Kumar and other Navy officials didn't disclose the trial schedule claiming that details were still being worked out.

"The commissioning would happen only after completion of the sea and aviation trials. The USA would train some of our trial agencies during the trials of its super-carrier USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78)," he said.

Vikrant's original completion schedule was December 2010, which was later extended to December 2018. The time overrun resulted in a six-time jump in the cost - from Rs 3,261 crore (estimated in 2002) to Rs 19,341 crore (March 2014).

Once ready, Russian-origin MiG-29K naval fighters would operate from its deck. But there is a problem with the availability of the aircraft too.

According to the original plan, the carrier was to have 12 MiG-29K and 8 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy besides 10 helicopters.

But the Navy has made it clear that LCA Navy at the moment is not up to the mark and requires substantial improvement before they can land and take-off from the decks of the carrier.

In January 2017, the Navy floated a Request for Information (tender) for 57 combat jets at a price of nearly Rs 50,000 crore. Even if the deal progresses smoothly, these aircraft won't be available before 2020.

There is also space for 10 helicopters onboard the Indian carrier, but choppers are in short supply in the maritime force.

Asked the reason for the delay in Vikrant construction, Commodore J N Chowdhury, a senior official from the Directorate of Naval Design said that the delay was primarily due to the  late supply of some of the crucial components like arrester gear from Russia.

In its report, the CAG cited a number of reasons for the delay including poor supervision and oversight of the project.

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