Vikrant is Home

IAC-I is a great example of public-private and foreign partnership

Prasun K. Sengupta

With the inking of the D-448 certificate on July 28, the ministry of defence-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd’s (CSL) chairman and managing director Madhu S. Nair delivered the Indian Navy’s (IN) first indigenously built aircraft carrier (IAC-1)—the Vikrant to Commodore Vidyadhar Harke, commanding officer designate of the vessel. With this, the decks have been cleared for the IAC-1 to be commissioned into service as INS Vikrant R-11 by Prime Minister Narendra D Modi.

INS Vikrant

Designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy (IN) under Project 71, the 37,500-tonne IAC-1’s construction at a cost of Rs 3,261 crore was sanctioned by India’s Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) in January 2003. However, metal-cutting commenced only in November 2006, while the keel-laying was done on 28 February 2009 at CSL, such delays being the result of Russia’s inability to supply the steel and the subsequent two-year timeframe for the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Defence Metallurgical Research Lab (DMRL) to come up with indigenous DMR-249A/DMR-249B steel.

The 262-metre-long, 62-metre wide, 8.4-metre draught and 59-metre high vessel was launched on 12 August 2013 in a pontoon-assisted technique, in a first in India, when limited dock space prevented further construction. CSL made a special jig to move the 104-tonne ‘A bracket’ that buttresses the propeller shafts—as long as 99 metres and 69 metres—on the aircraft carrier’s hull. It was then envisaged that the IAC-1 would be delivered to the IN by December 2018, followed by service-induction in October 2020. The three-year delay happened due to non-availability of 18 types of major equipment related to the IAC-1’s on-board Nevskoye Design Bureau-designed aviation hanger from Russia. This in turn led to a 600 per cent project cost overrun, or Rs 19,341 crore, and ultimately to Rs 23,000 crores.

In addition, contrary to the Integrated hull-outfitting process that is usually used for building warships, the IAC-1 used modular construction for only its 874 blocks meant for the hull. This was because the IAC-1 was an evolving design that ultimately resulted in 8,000 design iterations, and hence the prolonged outfitting process of six years. The IAC-1 successfully completed the contractor’s dry-dock work package (fast-cruise workup trials) in December 2019, while the wet-basin trials, conducted for proving of the propulsion, transmission and shafting systems, were held between September and November 2020. The builder’s sea trials commenced on 4 August 2021.

The IAC-1 has a draught of 30 metres and has 14 decks (including five on the island). The flight deck hosts two take-off axis (forward and aft), one of 144 metres length and another of 200 metres. The landing run is 190 metres long. The top-decks is of short take-off and arrested recovery (STOBAR) design, featuring an angled 14-degree ski jump ramp. The IAC-1 can accommodate 20 MiG-29K M-MRCAs, five Lockheed Martin MH-60R multi-role helicopters (the first two of which arrived in Kochi on July 28) and five Ka-31 AEW helicopters. Its crew complement comprises 160 officers and 1,400 sailors. The on-board reverse-osmosis plants can produce 800 tonnes of drinking water daily. Powered by four HAL-assembled and GE-developed LM-2500 marine industrial gas-turbines (each capable of delivering 22mWe), the IAC-1 consumes 24mWe of electricity in a single day and will have an endurance of around 7,500 nautical miles while cruising at a speed of 18 Knots (maximum speed being 24 Knots) and carrying 6,000 tonnes of diesel fuel that can sustain an 18-day voyage. It can cover a distance of 800 nautical miles in a single day.

Up to 90 per cent of the body of the IAC-1 was designed and made in India (with 21,000 tonnes of DMR-249A/DMR-249B steel) and involved about 200 big and small companies from the public-sector DPSUs and the private-sector. The vessel has 2,300 compartments designed to user specifications for crew (male and female), systems, piping, fluids, ventilations and cabling. The sailor living spaces (with provision to accommodate eight women officers) on the sixth deck from the top, also houses 92 impressive state-of-the-art sanitation spaces, with modern showers and vacuum toilets. The DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) along with CSL trained about 500 new welders for fabricating the vessel’s superstructure. The DMR-249A/249B steel came from Steel Authority of India Ltd’s plants in Rourkela in Orissa, Bokaro in Jharkhand and Bhilai in Chattisgarh; the Main Switch Board, steering gear and watertight hatches were manufactured by Larsen & Toubro in its plants in Mumbai and Talegaon; the high-capacity air conditioning and refrigeration systems were manufactured in Kirloskar’s plants in Pune; most of the pumps were supplied by Best & Crompton, Chennai; Bharat Heavy Engineering Ltd (BHEL) supplied the integrated platform management system and the eight diesel alternators, each generating 3mWe power; the massive COGAG gearbox was supplied by Gujarat-based Elecon Engineering; the tens of thousands of electrical cabling (running into 1,500km length) was supplied by Kolkata-based Nicco industries; Kolkata is also where the ship’s anchor chain cable is manufactured. The CMS-71 combat management system (CMS) was developed by Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division (TO-SED) in collaboration with the IN’s in-house Weapon and Electronics System Engineering Establishment (WESEE) and Russia-based FRPC MARS JSC (which supplied the Integrated Bridge Control System). Its installation work began on 29 March 2019 and was completed by July that same year. The CMS-71 is the second CMS to be developed by a private-sector entity for the IN, the first being the SARAANSH CMS for the INS Arihant nuclear-powered SSGN.

For the IAC-1/INS Vikrant, the IN selected the Mk.7 hydraulic damping arresting system from the US Navy, while US-based Wire Rope Industries Inc has supplied the three 30-metre-wide arrester/ restraining gears. Another US-based company, Engineered Arresting Systems Corp, has supplied the arrester barriers. In contrast, INS Vikramaditya’s hydraulic damping arresting system was designed by Marine Engineering Research Institute and made by Proletarsky Zavod. Italy-based AVIO supplied the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS). Other hardware to go on board IAC-1 include twin side-mounted aircraft elevators and their chain-drives from UK-based MacTaggart Scott, while Wire Rope Industries has supplied the ammunition hoisting elevators. The CBRN detection sensors were supplied by US-based Bruker Daltonics, which has for the past decade supplied almost all the CBRN detection sensors for all three of India’s armed services (while the remaining have come from French OEMs). The IAC-1’s ring-laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RLG-INS) uses Safran’s Electronics and Defence-built SIGMA-40 ring laser-gyros. Tex Special Projects and Pratex Power Vision Pvt Ltd–India’s leading supplier of marine glazing solutions designed, manufactured and project managed the installation of the ultra-high specification glazing, frames and ancillaries. Russia-based Concern CSRI Elektropribor JSC has supplied the LUNA-3E optical landing system and its Ladoga and Saturn deck lighting systems.

Principal on-board sensors include a bow-mounted HUMSA-NG sonar suite built by Bharat Electronics Ltd, a six-aperture EL/M-2248 MF-STAR S-band multifunction active phased-array antenna from Israel Aerospace Industries, and a SELEX-supplied RAN-40L L-band air-search radar. The VSAT terminals are from Israel’s ORBIT, while the electronic warfare suite comprises the DRDO-developed and BEL-built NAYAN COMINT system, VARUNA ESM system, and the SHAKTI electronic jammer. The weapons suite includes four AK-630M six-barrelled cannons and 64 Barak-8 LR-SAMs mounted on twin 32-cell vertical launch systems. In future, the DRDO-developed VL-SR-SAMs will go on board for close-in air-defence.

The IN’s Warship Overseeing Team (WOT) along with CSL was responsible for the conduct of the three-stage trails process of the IAC-1 prior to the warship’s delivery to the IN. The three stages comprise the fast-cruise work-up trails, wet-basin trials, and builder’s sea-trials. Broadly, there are 11 parameters that are validated during the sea-trials. These include draught measurement, anchor dropping/ recovery tests, steering gear tests, main engine endurance tests, speed trials, crash-stop tests, astern running, turning circle tests, black-out tests, mission electronics equipment tests, and aviation operations. The IAC-1’s propulsion system was turned on for the first time in December 2019 and by September 2020 the fast-cruise work-up trials were completed, followed by the wet-basin trials being concluded the following month. The first sea-trial got underway on 4 August 2021 and lasted four days, during which the IAC-1 succeeded in attaining its maximum cruise speed. The second sea-trial commenced on 24 October 2021, followed by the third from January 9-17, this year. On July 10, the fourth sea trial was successfully completed. At least three more sea trials are due to be conducted to fully validate the flight operations aspects that will include take-offs and landings by both MiG-29Ks and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet M-MRCAs, 26 of which are to be procured by the IN under a government-to-government contract.

The INS Vikrant’s temporary homeport will be at the Larsen & Toubro-owned shipyard at Kattupalli, near Chennai, for which the IN has leased a 260-metre long berth there for a period of eight years, starting 2022. By 2030 the vessel will proceed to its permanent homeport that is presently under construction at Rambilli, south of Vizag, under the IN’s Project Varsha.



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