CSL formally delivers IAC-1/Vikrant to Indian Navy


7/29/20224 min read

By Adm_Kenobi with input from Adithya

CSL on 28th July 2022 formally delivered IAC-1/Vikrant to the Indian Navy, the carrier is slated to be commissioned next month around mid-late August. The delivery marked a major milestone for Indian Military Industrial Complex (MIC)which has produced and delivered it’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC).

IAC-1/Vikrant (R11) with INS Kolkata (D63). Credit – Indian Navy

Brief summary of the Journey

The proposal to build an aircraft carrier within India was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1999 with a cost of ₹6,950 (adjusted for inflation) which was later revised to ₹11,675cr (adjusted for inflation) in 2002 and additional ₹2,330cr (adjusted for inflation) to cater for construction activities and the infrastructure upgrade at CSL. Air Defence Ship (as it was called in 1999 and 2002 proposal) was originally envisioned as a 35,000T carrier with a crew of 1,450 (100 officers and 1,350 sailors) and an air wing of 30 aircraft, this was later revised to 37,500T and 1,560 (160 officers and 1,400 sailors) in the 2004 Preliminary Staff Requirement. IAC-1/Vikrant in its current state displaces around 45,000 metric tonnes at full displacement and spans 262m in length, 62m in width, and 59m in height, it can embark more than 30 aircraft on the flight deck and hangar (combined), the cost of building the aircraft carrier and related infrastructure/supply line is estimated at around ₹23,000cr, a 64.2% increase over the approved ₹14,005cr.

Construction of the first block began in November 2006 and the keel was laid in February 2009. It was originally supposed to be launched in 2010/11 but was delayed due to the revision in Propulsion System Integration and the accident related to the delivery of 1st pair of Diesel Alternators (DAs). The lost pair of DAs was delivered in December 2012 followed by the formal launch of the carrier in August next year (2013). More than 4000 changes were made in the General Arrangement document which did not allow the shipyard to construct and order equipments at the intended pace, this led to the delay in construction and revised delivery date. The delay in construction and fitting out after launch are attributed to the late finalisation of subsystems by Directorate of Naval Design Bureau and late delivery of Aviation Complex equipments from the Russian side. The aircraft carrier started its harbour trials in 2020 and sea trials in August 2021 and now delivered to the Indian Navy on 28th July 2022.

IAC-1/Vikrant under construction in the background with indigenous ALH in foreground

Air wing

The original air wing for IAC-1 included MiG-29K, Naval LCA, ALH and Ka-31, this has now been revised to include MH-60R ASW helicopters. IAC-1/Vikrant would initially operate with MiG-29Ks from squadron No. 300 and 303 which would later be replaced by the aircraft to be procured under Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter tender. Boeing Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale M demonstrated their capability to operate from Indian aircraft carriers earlier this year, the tests were conducted at Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF). According to the OEMs, their respective aircraft had satisfied the requirement set by Indian Navy and even exceeded them by a good margin in some cases.

IAC-1/Vikrant undergoing its fourth sea trials with a MiG-29K mockup on the flight deck. Credit – Indian Navy

IAC-1/Vikrant undergoing its fourth sea trials ALH on the flight deck. Credit – Indian Navy

Escorts and home base

IAC-1/Vikrant when commissioned will be a part of Eastern Naval Command, it will initially be based at Karwar naval base which already houses India’ current aircraft carrier ‘INS Vikramaditya’. IAC-1/Vikrant would be relocated to a base on eastern seaboard once the construction activities related to the base are completed. Vikrant's Carrier Battle Group (CBG) would potentially include a mix of ships such as:

  • P-15 Delhi class DDG

  • P-15B Visakhapatnam class DDG

  • P-17 Shivalik class FFG

  • P-17A Nilgiri class FFG

  • P-28 Kamorta class ASW corvettes.

The carrier battle group with Vikrant at its center will help Indian Navy increase the presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and project power abroad.

IAC-1/Vikrant also known as Project-71 has worked as a stepping stone for the Indian industry in terms of indigenously designing and building an aircraft carrier. Indian Navy has been making the case for a larger Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) since 2010s, the timeline regarding IAC-2 remains uncertain.

IAC-1 Vikrant (R11) with INS Kolkata (D63). Credit – Indian