'Navy's 2nd operational aircraft carrier ready by 2022'

This happens at a time when China rapidly expands its naval strength with one operational and two under-construction aircraft carriers. The communist country plans to have half-a-dozen aircraft carrier by 2030.

India would have its second operational aircraft carrier to patrol the high seas for countering the Chinese muscle-flexing by 2022 only, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on Monday.

The Navy would take the delivery of the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) – currently under construction at Cochin shipyard - by March 2021 following which there would be aviation trials for a year.

“By 2022, we expect to have the indigenous aircraft carrier-1 (to be named INS Vikrant) fully operational. It would operate the MiG-29K fighter jets from its deck,” he said here at a press conference ahead of the Navy Day.

Admiral Singh pointed out that he would once again pitch for a third aircraft carrier (IAC-2), which would be a 65,000 tonnes ship with electric propulsion.

For a long time, Indian Navy harboured plans to operate three aircraft carriers but an earlier proposal to construct the IAC-2 lost steam in the absence of financial support from the government as the Defence Ministry struggled to find out resources for capital acquisition in the face of ballooning salary bills.

Making matters worse from an operational standpoint, the IAC-1 too is past its original delivery schedule leaving India with its solitary aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

This happens at a time when China rapidly expands its naval strength with one operational and two under-construction aircraft carriers. The communist country plans to have half-a-dozen aircraft carrier by 2030.

The new IAC-1 time frame is marginally better than the Cochin Shipyard Limited's plea to fix 2023 as a “realistic delivery schedule”, but a slip nevertheless from the Navy's earlier plan of having the ship by October 2020.

IAC-1's original completion schedule was December 2010, which was tweaked to December 2018 later, but the CSL was nowhere close to meet even the modified deadline.

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). Furthermore, almost one-third of the operational life of the Mig-29K jets would be over by the time Vikrant is inducted as the aircraft was delivered much ahead of the IAC.

Admiral Singh said Indian Navy currently operates 130 odd ships but plans to operate 175 ships by 2021-22 as 48 ships and submarines are under construction.

On operating an indigenous deck-based combat jet, Admiral Singh said that the lessons learnt from the LCA-Navy project would be ploughed back in developing a twin-engine naval fighter by 2026.

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