January 16, 2012:
On December 30, India floated out its first locally built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant. Construction began three years ago, but was delayed a bit because Russia was late in supplying the high-grade steel needed for the hull. The Vikrant was not supposed to leave dry dock yet but the dock was needed for another project. Construction will go on, with pipes, conduits, and other fittings installed. Later this year, Vikrant will return to another dry dock to have its engines and other major equipment installed. This 40,000 ton vessel won't be ready for sea trials until 2015. The INS Vikrant has a ski-jump deck, like the INS Vikramaditya, and is designed to carry 29 jet fighters and ten helicopters.
India's sole current aircraft carrier, the 29,000 ton INS Viraat, emerged from 18 months in a shipyard (for maintenance and upgrades) two years ago. This work could have been avoided by the timely arrival (three years ago) of the refurbished Russian carrier Gorshkov. If that had happened, the INS Viraat would have been retired in 2012, after 53 years' service (for Britain and India). But now the INS Viraat, with its engine and hull refurbished, and its electronics upgraded, will probably serve for another decade. Thus by 2015, India will have two large carriers in operation, and some bitter memories of their experience with the Russians over the rebuilt Gorshkov. This ship, renamed the INS Vikramaditya, is supposed to undergo sea trials this year.