India’s sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which is already 54 years old, will continue to serve the Navy till 2016.
“INS Viraat can soldier on for another three years,” Defence Minister A K Antony said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on Monday. INS Viraat, which now requires a once-in-two-years refit and repair, is currently undergoing one of those sessions at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala.
Antony said measures were in place to ensure that the Navy’s operational capabilities are not compromised when its largest naval vessel is docked for repairs.
The Navy had acquired the Centaur Class aircraft carrier in 1987 from the UK, where the 28,000-tonne warship had served since 1959, and re-christened it as INS Viraat.
Normally, a warship of Viraat’s size has an effective operational life of about 25 years. However, the Navy’s ingenious ways of making the ageing warship plough on well after its golden jubilee has baffled and amazed the world.
However, by 2016, when the Navy intends to decommission INS Viraat, India hopes to have at least one aircraft carrier on either the eastern or the western seaboard.
India will get Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov -- re-christened as INS Vikramaditya in 2004 when it was bought second-hand -- before December this year.
INS Vikramaditya’s boilers had malfunctioned during its trials last year. The Sevmash Shipyard in Russia has taken the 45,000-tonne warship back for repairs.
The warship’s price was hiked to `12,000 crore in 2010 from the `5,000 crore originally agreed on in 2004. India will possibly have its indigenously-built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, at the ready by 2018, four years after its original deadline of 2014. The delay was caused by the problems related to the supply of gearboxes and other key equipment.