INS Vikrant is being delivered about six years late and at a cost of about Rs 20,000 crore instead of the sanctioned Rs 3,261 crore.
After hosting two successive high profile visits -- by President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu -- within a span of less than two weeks, India's first indigenously built aircraft carrier (IAC-1), INS Vikrant, underwent its third set of sea trials. The carrier was built at Cochin Shipyard Ltd.
In her first sea trials last August, INS Vikrant established the smooth functioning of its propulsion system, navigational suite and basic aircraft carrier operations.
In her second sea trials in October-November, various machinery trials and flight trials were conducted along with various seamanship evolutions.
During the second set of sea trials, INS Vikrant spent 10 days out at sea, thereby proving its sustenance capability.
With the navy having gained confidence in the ship's abilities during the first two sea trials, INS Vikrant sailed out to undertake complex manoeuvres to establish specific readings of how the ship performs in various conditions. In addition, various sensor suites of the ship would also be tested.
Scientists from the Naval Science and Technological Laboratory, a Defence Research and Development Organisation laboratory based at Visakhapatnam, embarked during the trials.
The NSTL scientists checked the installation and functioning of underwater weapons and associated systems, such as underwater mines, torpedoes, fire control systems, weapon launchers, targets and decoys.
'The IAC has been a success story on numerous counts, be it the case of Aatmanirbharta, wherein 76 per cent of the equipment is indigenously sourced; or the close engagement between the design teams of the Indian Navy and M/s Cochin Shipyard Limited,' the ministry of defence stated in an official press release.
However, the ministry avoided mention of the time and cost over-runs that have plagued the construction of INS Vikrant. It is being delivered about six years late and at a cost of about Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) instead of the sanctioned Rs 3,261 crore (Rs 32.61 billion).
The Indian Navy's long experience of operating aircraft carriers is evident from the fact that INS Vikrant has been able to carry out basic flying operations from its very first outing to sea.
That experience comes from operating aircraft carriers ever since 1961, when the first INS Vikrant was bought from Britain's royal navy.
In 1987, with that Vikrant nearing retirement, the navy inducted a second carrier, INS Viraat, built by Vickers-Armstrong, UK.
At present, the Indian Navy operates a single aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which was bought from Russia.
After IAC-1 INS Vikrant joins the fleet next year, the navy is planning a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), to follow INS Vikrant. It is believed that the IAC-2 will be named INS Vishal.
The 40,000-tonne INS Vikrant operates a mix of aircraft, with its strike power predominantly coming from Russian MiG-29K/KUB fighters, Kamov-31 helicopters and a new fleet of Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-role helicopters, when those are delivered by Lockheed Martin.
With a question mark over the combat ability and resilience of the MiG-29K/KUB, the navy is processing the acquisition of 57 more deck-based fighters from the global market to boost the strike power of INS Vikrant and INS Vishal.
In addition, the DRDO is pursuing the development of a 'twin engine deck-based fighter' that will supplement the other fighters.
On successful completion of the ongoing series of progressive sea trials, IAC-1 is scheduled to be commissioned as INS Vikrant later this year, as the nation commemorates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.