Indian Navy to order another aircraft carrier

May 9th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by admin  

Mumbai, May 9 (IANS) The Indian Navy will place an order for another aircraft carrier with the Cochin Shipyard, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta said here Friday. The navy is now reaching a stage when it would prefer to have aircraft carriers rolled out at regular intervals. The order for the next one will be placed after the one being built at the Cochin shipyard is commissioned, said Mehta.

The navy is also seeking a long-term production arrangement with the Cochin shipyard for the purpose, he added.

“We expect the indigenous aircraft carrier to be completed by 2012. Meanwhile, `Admiral Gorshkov’ (which will be rechristened ‘Vikramaditya’) will arrive in another three years’ time,” he said.

Accordingly, by the time Vikramaditya is ready to be decommissioned, the navy would need to have another carrier ready for induction, he told media persons at the end of the three-day annual Naval Commanders Conference-2008 here Friday.

Presently, INS Viraat is the sole aircraft carrier in the Indian Navy after INS Vikrant was decommissioned Jan 31, 1997 and converted to a floating museum.

“Ideally we would like to have three carrier groups at a time, so that while two are operational, one can be taken up for refits,” Admiral Mehta pointed out.

On an average, aircraft carriers have a lifespan of 30-40 years and the idea is to have three in constant service. To maintain that, the shipyards need to have a regular production line.

Over the years, INS Viraat has undergone a series of refits including a mid-life upgrade in 2000-2001 just before an international fleet review.

Discussing the three-day brain storming session of top naval commanders, Admiral Mehta, who is also chairman of chiefs of staff committee, said that great stress was laid on enhancing capabilities of the aviation wing, particularly surveillance.

“In the past one-and-a-half-years, we have brought this issue to the fore,” he said, adding that for replacing the eight Tu-142 long-range maritime patrol aircraft, request for proposals were received and bidders may be called. However, he refused to specify details of the bidders.

When queried about the status of the maritime variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Admiral Mehta said: “It is (at) a distance. Actually, we were the first supporters. However, events were overtaken. It needs to have a strong undercarriage, a tail hook, a better visibility angle, and modified cockpit and lift augmentation. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) are working on it.”

The naval LCA would be of crucial importance after the indigenous aircraft is ready by 2010. Currently British made Sea-Harrier jump jets are an integral part of INS Viraat, but when Vikramaditya is commissioned it would have the Russian MiG-29K fighter jets.

On the modernisation of the navy, Mehta said that the growth path was “pretty strong” and “we are doing well. The defence budget is not in strain. We are below two percent of GDP, but increasing by 10 percent in terms of availability of funds. We would like to have it around 2.5 percent of GDP,” he said.

On the sea denial capability, he said that while six Scorpene submarines are being built at the Mazagon Docks, the navy plans to order six more submarines very soon.

“We shall be acquiring the next-generation Talwar-class ships. All of these are high-technology platforms,” said Mehta.

Pointing to the need for enhancing shipbuilding capabilities, the navy chief stressed on the need for greenfield projects besides the Mazagon Docks, Goa Shipyard, Cochin Shipyard and Garden Reach Shipbuilders. He said the shipping ministry has recently announced plans to construct two more shipyards on the country’s east and west coasts.

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