|As the construction of the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) is on a smooth course, naval engineers have readied plans to construct two additional home-made aircraft carriers to make the Indian navy a ?three-carrier navy?.
At the Cochin Shipyard Ltd, heavy machineries are being put in place to undertake the navy?s most ambitious project ? manufacturing the 37,500 tonnes IAC to carry fighter planes and helicopters ? from the scratch in another six years at a cost of Rs 3261crore.
The two existing aircraft carriers ? INS Virat and INS Vikrant are from the UK. A third Russian carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) is likely to be commissioned by 2008.
While INS Vikrant joined the services in the early 1960s and has been made a museum after more than two decades in service. INS Virat was commissioned in 1987.
?The manufacturing facilities now being put in place would not only be for making only one aircraft carrier. The navy has a long term plan of making two more. INS Virat can serve for another 6 to 7 years during which the final decision on constructing additional carriers can be made,? said a Navy officer.
Steel cutting have taken place in the IAC project, formerly known as air defence ship. According to the designs made at the Directorate of Naval Design (DND), the 840 ft ship will have 30 fighter planes and helicopters, out of which 17 can be accommodated in the hanger.
For the fighter fleets, the options are MiG-29K, naval version of the light combat aircraft, Sea Harrier, advanced light helicopter and Russian Kamov-31 helicopters. While there will be foreign consultations in a few areas, the naval engineers claimed the design to be completely indigenous. Only three other nations have built such a large carrier in the past.
?Besides the ambitious project, the navy is constructing three new destroyers, each weighing 6640 tonnes at the Mazgaon docks in Mumbai,? said Commodore K N Vaidyanathan, principle director of naval design at the DND. The organisation will complete its 50th anniversary on November 17.
The decision to make these three new destroyers has been taken following the success of the three Delhi-class destroyers, which are INS Delhi, INS Mysore and INS Mumbai.