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India's own aircraft carrier to join service in 2014

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An artistic impression of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier. Courtesy Indian navy.

NEW DELHI (BNS): India has joined an elite club of nations that can build large and complex aircraft carriers with its Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) project moving into a critical phase.

Defence minister AK Antony on February 28 would lay the keel for the carrier at the Cochin Shipyard’s construction dock for the IAC. The foundation laying ceremony will mark the launch of the first phase of building of the 40,000-tonne aircraft carrier that can carry 30 fighters and helicopters on it. The warship should be ready for induction into the Navy in 2014.

With the IAC, India will join the ranks of US, Russia and France and become the first in Asia to build such a large and complex warship. A defence source at the Cochin Shiyard Limited said that a ship of such complexity was being built in the country for the first time. “The Steel Authority of India Limited would be supplying the steel, which makes up for some 30 percent of the ship,” the source said.

Giving description about the ship, the official said that the ship's overall length would be 260 meters, while the beam, width at the widest point, would be 60 meters. It would be taller than a 14-storey building, he said.

According to the Cochin officer, the IAC is being designed keeping in mind the MIG-29K fighters, which are to be also placed on Admiral Gorshkov, as well as the naval version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). “It would also have Kamov-31 helicopters onboard. A total of 30 aircraft can be on board at a given point of time,” the officer said.

Talking about the take off and landing of aircraft on the ship, the officer said fighters would take off from the carrier using a ski-jump rather than being launched using a catapult. The landing fighters would be brought to a halt using arresting wires. There would be strength of 1600 personnel on the ship. Russia has provided design consultancy for the aviation part of the carrier, the official said.

The project, which began in 2002, gained steam in 2006 when the construction of the warships' building blocks began. Officials said that the Cochin Shipyard has already completed about 8,000-tonne of work.

To be fitted with two 2,500 horsepower gas turbine propellers, the IAC would touch a maximum of 28 knots speeds. The IAC would also have equipment to meet special requirements such as shock, vibration and noise absorption, stealth features and compactness in size and weight.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the cost of the ship is estimated to be around Rs 3260 crores. But the budget is flexible, officials said.

Presently, India has just one aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, in service. The delivery of Admiral Gorshkov, a carrier India is buying from Russia, has been delayed to 2012.

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