New Delhi: The maiden sea trials of the indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant have progressed very well and the second phase of trials are expected to begin end October with the third phase planned in December, a defence official said.
“Vikrant is expected to be delivered to the Navy in April and likely to be commissioned in August 2022,” the official said which would also coincide with 75 years of Independence. Simultaneously, work is under way on the aviation complex of the carrier for which a Russian team is here. The aviation trials will continue once the carrier is commissioned and they would be done with the Mig-29K aircraft in service with the Navy, the official said.
During the maiden sea trial in August, Vikrant’s performance, including hull, main propulsion, power generation and distribution and auxiliary equipment were tested. The results were extremely satisfactory and the engine showed 100% performance and some issues which had come up were being addressed, the official said. Vikrant, designed by the Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design and built by Cochin Shipyard Limited, is 262m long, 62m at the widest part and height of 59m including the superstructure and has more than 76% indigenous content. There are 14 decks, including five in the superstructure and over 2,300 compartments designed for a crew of around 1,700 people, with separate accommodation for women officers.
In the Phase-II of the trials, complete habitat, including each of the over 2,300 compartments, would be thoroughly checked, the official said. The Navy had floated a Request For Information (RFI) issued in 2017 to procure 57 twin engine carrier fighters and the responses are being evaluated. This is in the backdrop of a new indigenous Twin Engine Carrier Based Deck Fighter (TEBDF) being designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
Concurrently with sea trials of Vikrant, plans are afoot for the trials of the fighter jets in the fray for the tender. “Initially, trials will be done on the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa and then on the aircraft carrier,” the official said. The aircraft likely to be tested are Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale and Saab Gripen-E.
In preparation for the trials, Boeing had last December shown the comparability of its F/A-18 Super Hornet with the Navy’s Short Takeoff but Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) system by launching it from a ski-jump from a shore based facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent river in Maryland, US. The Navy had contracted 45 Mig-29K aircraft from Russia and currently in service which Navy officials had stated earlier that there will not be enough aircraft to operate from both carriers.
The TEBDF under development is progressing well and the first flight is planned in 2026, the official said. The Navy is working closely with the DRDO and the ADA on the project, officials on both sides said. The TEDBF is envisaged as a twin-engine medium weight fighter with an all up weight of 26 tonnes and wing folding and is meant to replace the Mig-29Ks in service, said Dr. Girish S Deodhare, Distinguished Scientist and Programme Director (Combat Aircraft) and Director, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) recently.
On the progress of TEDBF, Dr. Deodhare had said the Preliminary Service Quality Requirements (PSQR) were defined over 6-8 months in which two configurations were evolved in coordination with the Navy. “From that one of the configuration preferred by the Navy was selected and the PSQRs are final,” he had stated.
In January 2020, the DRDO had demonstrated successful arrested landing of Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on INS Vikramaditya and subsequently, 18 take-offs and landings were conducted in five days. The TEDBF is being taken up from the experience of the Naval LCA.