India will launch its 37,500-ton indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) on August 12 at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala. The ship is scheduled for induction by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the former Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, now the INS Vikramaditya, conducted final trials in the Barents Sea this week with its squadron of MiG-29K combat jets embarked. It is due to be delivered by year-end, after a delay of more than four years.
Designed by the Directorate of Naval Design, the IAC-1 will be named INS Vikrant. It is 260 meters (850 feet) long and 60 meters (200 feet) wide. Powered by four gas turbines, it will be capable of more than 28 knots (56 km per hour). It will have two runways–206 meters (675 feet), including a ski-jump for takeoffs; and 145 meters (475 feet) for landings. The new carrier will accommodate the additional MiG-29Ks that are on order, as well as the naval variants of India’s own light combat aircraft (LCA) and advanced light helicopter (ALH). Kamov Ka-31s for anti-submarine warfare will also be aboard.
Approximately 83 percent of the fabrication work and 75 percent of construction work on the new carrier will be completed when the ship goes into water, said Vice Admiral R.K. Dhowan, vice chief of the Indian Navy. The rest, including the flight deck, will be completed once the ship is launched, he added. The carrier will be equipped with the Indo-Israeli (Barak-8) long-range surface-to-air missile system with multi-function radar and close-in weapons system.
Detailed studies on the type of aircraft, launch and recovery mechanisms and propulsion systems have already started for a second indigenous aircraft carrier, with the design to be revealed within a year, Dhowan told AIN. Given the experience gathered, the second carrier could be in the heavier class of around 65,000 tons with a catapult instead of the existing ski jump, said an Indian Navy official speaking on condition of anonymity. With approximately 55 aircraft required for the carrier, it is likely the Indian Navy will accelerate plans to acquire a carrier airborne early-warning and control system such as the Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye. The naval version of the Dassault Rafale might also be a candidate for operation from the second carrier, in addition to the Boeing AH-64 Apaches and CH-47 Chinooks that India has already selected.