19 March 2007

An Aging Carrier Extended Past It's Prime?

Nope -- not the JFK, rather the INS Viraat. The Viraat is fast approaching her 50th anniversary (put in commission in 1959 as the HMS Hermes) and recently completed a SLEP (still, recalling life onboard a 40+ yr old conventional CV, even after SLEP it left something to be desired...). While never having had the opportunity to work w/the INS and Viraat, but had worked previously with the Hermes and her air group (first deployment of the Sea Harrier before the Falklands-Malvinas War). To see how the ol' gal is doing, here is an I came across while doing some other research. The article is from the 17 Mar edition of the Times of India:

India: 'Aging' Aircraft Carrier INS Viraat To Be in Service Till 1012

[Report by Rajat Pandit: "INS Viraat Not To Anchor Before 2012"]

Govt Says Aircraft Carrier, Central To Navy Operations, May Be Ageing But Still In Good Shape

[The Times of India, 17 Mar] New Delhi -- It's two acres of sovereign Indian territory cruising on the high seas. Though ageing and creaking, it's the only one of its kind the country has as of now to project power much beyond its shores.

We are talking about India's solitary aircraft carrier, the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, which is central to the Navy's concept of operations both in war and peace, with its complement of Sea Harrier jumpjets and helicopters.

In keeping with its motto of Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya (He who controls the sea is all powerful), the Navy hopes to make INS Viraat soldier on till at least 2012.

Considering that it was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes as far back as in 1959 and joined the Indian Navy in 1987 that will be quite a remarkable feat. Defence minister A K Antony gave some indication of this in Lok Sabha [lower house of Indian parliament] on Thursday [ 15 Mar], holding that a study group had been constituted to explore the feasibility of extending the life of INS Viraat till 2012.

"The study group has recommended that the extension of its service life up to 2012 is possible subject to certain repairs being undertaken in addition to routine periodic maintenance," he said. Apart from some major and minor refits at different times, INS Viraat underwent an extensive life-extension refit in 1999-2000, with new or upgraded propulsion, sensor, sonar, radar, weapon, communication and flood-control systems.

"INS Viraat is in quite a good condition now. In fact, a visiting British officer said it was in a much better condition now than the time he served on it in the late-1970s. It will require only routine refits now to take it to 2012," said an officer. As earlier reported by TOI [Times of India], the Navy hopes to have two fully-operational "carrier battle groups," with their own complements of fighter jets, to act as a "stabilising influence" in the entire Indian Ocean and beyond by 2009.

While one of the battle groups will be centred around INS Viraat, the other will be led by INS Vikramaditya, the rechristened 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier currently undergoing a refit in Russia.

The Navy is anticipating a slight delay in inducting INS Vikramaditya, which was earlier supposed to come by August 2008, with its complement of 16 MiG-29Ks as part of the Rs 6,900-crore [about $1.56 billion] deal signed with Russia in 2004.

"Moreover, the 37,500-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier, being built at Cochin Shipyard, will become fully operational only by 2012-2013. Therefore, all the more reason to keep INS Viraat running till that time," said another officer.

With 1,500 personnel on board the 13-storey high warship, INS Viraat is a small town in itself. "Apart from a 16-bed hospital, it even has an ATM counter. Her generators produce 9 megawatts of electric power, enough to meet electricity requirements of a small township," said the officer.