INs Vikrant, the first indigenous aircraft carrier of India, is expected to achieve combat readiness by the end of 2023.
The formidable vessel, weighing 45,000 tonnes, was constructed at Cochin Shipyard at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. Only a handful of countries, including the US, the UK, Russia, France, and China, possess the capability to build aircraft carriers of this magnitude. It is named after its predecessor, INS Vikrant, which served the Indian Navy from 1961 to 1997.
Stretching across a length of 262 meters, with a height of 61 meters from keel to mast, the INS Vikrant boasts a flight deck spanning 12,500 square meters—an area equivalent to 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. It possesses an impressive endurance of 7,500 nautical miles, capable of achieving a maximum speed of 28 knots. With 2,300 compartments, the carrier can accommodate a crew of 1,600 individuals.
Recent developments have seen the successful landing of MiG-29K fighter jets on the aircraft carrier for the first time.
Currently, the vessel is undergoing air certification and flight integration trials. The ongoing flight trials involve the deployment of Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter jets, which utilize a ski-jump for take-off and are subsequently recovered using arrestor wires, employing the Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) technique.
Moreover, the Naval variant of the indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft also landed on the carrier earlier this year.
The Indian Navy is currently in the process of procuring 26 fighters for deployment on the INS Vikrant.
Additionally, an indigenous twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) is under development. Officials have projected that the first prototype of the TEDBF is set to undertake its maiden flight by 2026, with production readiness anticipated by 2031.
Twelve MiG-29Ks are expected to be deployed on the Vikrant, while the Navy is seeking to acquire a new deck-based fighter as an interim solution to fulfill its requirements until the TEDBF becomes operational.
Notably, Dassault and Boeing demonstrated the capabilities of their respective aircraft to the Indian Navy at a shore-based test facility in Goa in January and June 2022. Reports indicate that the Rafale-M, the naval variant of the Rafale fighter aircraft currently in service with the Indian Air Force, is the frontrunner for the lucrative fighter aircraft deal.
The Navy has submitted a report to the Ministry of Defence following the trials, which identifies the Rafale-M as better suited to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Navy.
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