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SOURCE: THE WEEK

A week after satellite images of China’s second aircraft carrier that was docked at Yulin Naval base at the southern tip of Hainan Island and is all set to join the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) soon surfaced, Indian Navy has pressed Cochin Shipyard to deliver country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at the earliest. INS Vikrant, weighing 40,000 tons, is being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited.

“We have asked the Cochin Shipyard to adhere to its deadline, as the project has already missed its multiple deadlines. The way Chinese navy is expanding, we also need to expedite our projects,” a senior naval official told The Week.

Last week, satellite images provided by a US-based private firm confirmed the Type 001A carrier with seven Shenyang J-15 fighters and four helicopters visible on its deck. Key officials of the South block, who constantly monitor the developments on Chinese front, claim that that the Type 001A will become China’s second operational carrier after Liaoning, once its gets commissioned. Liaoning was developed on the Soviet Union’s Kuznetsov-class carrier.

Indian Navy is operating with a single aircraft carrier—INS Vikramaditya, the 45,000-ton carrier bought from Russia.

“We are expecting delivery of IAC Vikrant by February 2021. Then, its aviation trials will take at least a year to complete before its formal induction into the Navy’s fleet. We expect the shipyard to meet this new deadline,” the official said while adding that the long-delayed warship was scheduled to be ready by the end of 2018, but due to delay in procuring multiple equipment from Russia, the delivery date has been extended.

The IAC was scheduled to be launched in water by 2010, but it could be launched only in August 2013, after three years of delay. According to a Naval official, the design of IAC-1, with the cost of Rs 3,500 crore, was initially approved by the ministry of defence in 2003, but the construction began only in 2005 in Cochin Shipyard.

With its length of 260 meters, the warship would have two take-off runways and a landing strip with three arrester wires, capable of operating a STOBAR (short take off but arrested delivery) aircraft and a range of helicopters. Twenty MiG 29K fighter jets and 10 helicopters will be deployed on the aircraft carrier.

With this, India will join the elite group of indigenous built aircraft carrier. At present, only the US, Russia, Britain and France have capacity to design and build aircraft carriers of 40,000 tonnes and heavier.