dimecres, 14 d’agost de 2013

The INS Vikrant: A 37,500-tonne defence statement*

Why is the Vikrant important?
It is India's first ever indigenous aircraft carrier, and signifies a degree of self-reliance in this field. Currently under construction in Kochi, it will be the largest ever warship built in India. It will make the country the fifth that is capable of constructing aircraft carriers this size, the others being the US, Russia, France and the UK. The Vikrant is a STOBAR carrier — short takeoff but arrested recovery — which means aircraft will take off on their own power from a ski jump but will be hooked in by an arrester wire when they come in to land.

Since when has the project been planned?
As per the original plan, work was to start in 2008 and the ship expected to join service by 2014. The idea was to induct it within a few years of the commissioning of the Russian-origin Vikramaditya or Gorshkov so that the Navy would have two operational carriers, one each for the west and east coasts. However, the project saw delays in terms of government approvals as well as technology blocks. Actual work started in 2009 with the kneel-laying ceremony. Phase 1 of the project, which culminated in Monday's ceremony, is believed to have cost over Rs 15,000 crore. No official figures have been revealed. 

What is the ceremony in Kochi about?

Monday's function was the launching ceremony. What this means is that the structure, fabricated in a dry dock, has been floated out into the sea and anchored next to the yard. In warship production, a certain part is constructed in a dry dock that is slowly filled with water as the weight of the structure increases, but after a certain tonnage has been reached the dry dock cannot accommodate the weight any more. The Vikrant is currently over 15,000 tonnes and will weigh 37,500 tonnes when complete.India's aircraft carrier INS Vikrant raises hackles in China
What comes next?
Work will now start to add on the bridge aboard the flight deck, as well as extend the ship's breadth outside the confines of the dock. Extensive cabling and integration of all systems remain. Over 75 per cent of the structure has been erected, and the engines and generators housed inside their compartments.

When will the ship be inducted?
As per current plans, the ship should be ready to steam under its own power and go for the first round of trials by 2016-end. The trials are expected to last almost two years as all systems will be tested and faults rectified. Deck landing and takeoff trials will also take place. The ship is expected to be fit for formal induction in the Navy by the end of 2018.

What are the ship's capabilities?
The 37,500-tonne carrier has been designed to attain speeds in excess of 28 knots, and to carry 36 aircraft, 17 in the hangars and 19 on deck. It is powered by four LM 2500 gas turbines that will generate over 80 MW — enough to light a small city. It is designed to sail for over 8,000 nautical miles in a service period over three decades. Its main weapon will be its fighter aircraft.

What fighters will it carry?
A mix of MiG 29 Ks and later Light Combat Aircraft (Naval), besides KA 31 early warning and anti-submarine choppers and Advanced Light Helicopters for utility missions. It will be protected against air attacks by the long-range surface-to-air missile system being developed with Israel and will have AK 630 close-in-weapon systems. The carrier will act basically as an Indian air strike base that can be transported virtually across the world.

How does it compare with other ships?
At 37,500 tonnes, the Vikrant is in a class similar to that of the INS Vikramaditya (erstwhile Gorshkov) that is currently undergoing trials in the Barents Sea and is expected to join service by December 15. It is larger than India's sole serving carrier, the INS Virat that weights 28,000 tonnes and can carry less than 30 aircraft. The Vikrant will be the fourth carrier to be operated by India when it joins in 2018. The first was the original Vikrant (20,000 tonnes, retired in 1997) after which it has been named, the second is the 28,000-tonne Virat and the third will be the 44,000 tonne Vikramaditya. The US operates super-carriers that weigh over 90,000 tonnes and can carry over 80 aircraft. The UK, France and Russia operate carriers in the 40-60,000-tonne range. China's carrier (hull acquired from Ukraine but refurbished and completed in China) is currently undergoing trials in the Yellow Sea; it has a displacement of over 60,000 tonnes.

* Notícia publicada a The Indian Express. Una fita més en l'expansió del conjunt de l'Indian Navy, cada cop més capaç de produïr el seu propi "hardware".

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