House panel says given the long time for repairs, three aircraft carriers are an ‘unavoidable requirement’
NEW DELHI: Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is undergoing its first major refit since December 2020 and is expected to sail out in the next couple of months.
“This is the first major refit of INS Vikramaditya and it should come out in couple of months,” a defence source said. Once that happens and with Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant set to be commissioned this month, the Navy will have two fully operational carriers for sometime, the official noted.
Explaining the maintenance and refit process, the official said a ship or submarine, after two years of operation, goes for refit — called the assisted maintenance period. The duration ranges from two weeks to two months depending on the size of the vessel.
Then there is the normal refit after six years, ranging anywhere from four months to one and half year, the official elaborated.
Being very large and complex platforms, aircraft carriers are out of action for long periods of time for maintenance and upgrades, another officer noted, adding this is why the Navy has been pressing for a third aircraft carrier.
The Navy envisages IAC-II to have a displacement of 65,000 crore and use a Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery (CARTOBAR) for launching aircraft.
The 44,500-ton INS Vikramaditya procured from Russia is the lone carrier currently in service. Like INS Vikramaditya, Vikrant too would employ the STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) mechanism with a ski-jump and arrestor cables to launch and recover aircraft.
Fire During Trials
The schedule was delayed by couple of months due to the recent fire onboard during the trials at sea off Karwar on July 20. The fire was brought under control by the ship’s crew using onboard firefighting systems and no casualties were reported.
In June, China, which operates two carriers Liaoning and Shandong, launched its third aircraft carrier, Fujian, into waters, also its largest.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, in its report last December, said in its recommendation to the government that having three aircraft carriers will considerably enhance combat capabilities of the Navy.
Taking into account the long coastline and hostile adversities on both sides of Indian peninsula, an aircraft carrier on both sides of coast is “quintessential” to uphold operational requirements, the committee said, and noted that given the long time for repairs and to bridge operational deficiencies thus arising, three aircraft carriers are an “unavoidable requirement” to meet any eventualities.
In its reply to the committee, the government had stated, “The requirement of third aircraft carrier will be worked out on the Indian Navy committed liabilities and future acquisition projects.”