India, looking to boost its naval presence in the Indian Ocean, is one step closer to putting its first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) into the water—as soon as August.
The first sea trials are likely to follow 10 months later, says a senior government official. Still, the IAC, named INS Vikrant after India's first carrier, will not see deployment for another five years.
The carrier is being constructed at the Cochin shipyard and the vessel “will be floated out on Aug. 12 and taken to the repair dock to carry out remaining work,” says Commo. K. Subramaniam, chairman and managing director of Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Hull work will be completed by June 2014, he adds.
The carrier is expected to be handed over to the navy for induction by January 2018.
The 45,000-ton IAC is estimated to cost $5 billion.
Cochin shipyard personnel have been working with the navy on the vessel for more than six years. The contract for the construction of the aircraft carrier was signed in 2007, and the keel was laid in February 2009, Subramaniam says.
The IAC was originally slated to enter service in 2014. Through last year, Indian officials insisted it could be commissioned in 2017. But a number of factors led to construction delays, including lack of adequate and appropriate steel from Russia and technical issues in the gearbox and other systems, a defense ministry official says.
India's other aircraft carrier, the 45,000-ton, 284-meter-long (932-ft.) INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian Kiev-class Admiral Gorshkov, is undergoing trials and will soon join the current sole carrier, the INS Virat.
Increasing India's naval force in the Indian Ocean is crucial, especially to combat sea piracy, says Ajay Lele, a defense pundit at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.