- Jugal R Purohit
- A BBC spokesperson
3 hours ago
“If you were left alone on this ship, would you know where to go?” I asked.
“Now I know. But, it took me two months to learn the ways here,” an Indian Navy officer told me with a smile.
India’s indigenously designed and developed aircraft carrier “Vikrant” is going to be formally commissioned on September 2. Vikrant is a Sanskrit word. It means “courage”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to Kochi to attend the official handing over of Vikrant to the Indian Navy.
After joining the Navy, the ship will become Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant.
What’s it like inside?
As soon as Vikrant enters, different compartments are visible. There are about 2300 compartments inside. We do not feel that we are in the real ship.
262 meters long and 60 meters high ship, the effect of waves in the sea is not much visible. Inside there are ladders and separate ways to go to different floors. With the help of these, you can go here and there very easily. Due to air conditioning systems, heat and cold are not known.
The name Vikrant does not need to be introduced much to Indians. This is also the name of the first Indian aircraft carrier. The ship was purchased from the Royal Navy and commissioned in 1961. However, in 1997, he was dismissed from his duties. The ship played a major role in many vital military operations.
Now talking about today’s Vikrant, in which around 1,700 personnel are going to perform duties.
An additional 2,000 people are currently employed here for cabling, polishing and interior design. All these works will be completed by Friday.
Tourists like us are also roaming among those working here. Overall everything seems busy with sounds.
From here we went to Throttle Control Room (TCR).
“It is like the heart of a ship. Gas turbine engines work from here. With the help of these, the ship will move forward,” said Senior Engineer, Lt. Commander Sai Krishnan.
From there we came to an area called “Gallery”. Here coffee machines, beautifully designed tables, chairs and containers are seen. Actually it can be thought of as a canteen or a pantry. Vikrant has three of these. “A total of 600 personnel can eat together at a time in all three,” an official told me.
After a little further, on the left side we found the quarters where we could be accommodated. Mattresses inside are stacked on top of each other.
After that we came to see the huge medical facilities in Vikrant. The 16-bed hospital has two operation theatres, laboratories, wards, ICUs and a CT scan machine. Five medical officers and 15 health workers are working here. Officials say it is the largest ship-based hospital in India.
After that we saw many places that reminded us that this is a wonderful ship. This is not an ordinary ship.. It can carry 30 warplanes and helicopters.
So in the hangar...
From there we entered the hangar.
In fact there are more ships carrying warplanes than the Vikrant. For example, the British Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth can carry around 40 aircraft, and the US Navy’s Nimitz carriers can carry over 60 aircraft.
MiG-29K and Kamov-31 fighter jets brought from Russia were seen at one end of the Vikrant hangar.
“It looked like a parking lot. A team is working here for repairs and maintenance,” said Lt Commander Vijay Sivaran.
After that we came to the deck. This is where flights take place.
Almost all advanced systems of Vikrant have been tested at various stages. However, “flying operations” have to be tested. Those exams will also be completed by the end of this year.
Lt. Commander Siddharth Soni is working as a flight deck officer and a helicopter pilot.
“The size of this flight deck is 12,500 square meters. That is equivalent to two hockey fields. 12 planes and six helicopters can be operated here at a time. “The more space we have, the more flights we can operate,” he said.
Vikrant is going to host Russian, American and Indian helicopters in a single hangar.
This 45,000 ton warship can target aircraft and missiles of enemy countries. China is also developing such ships on its own.
How does it prevent attacks?
Captain Rajat Kumar told us how it actually works. ”It never goes away alone. Along with this there will be some other ships. There are destroyers, warships, submarine destroyers, aircraft destroyers and so on. On the other hand, Vikrant also has sophisticated systems to deal with threats,” he explained.
Lt. Commander Chaitanya Malhotra spoke before we went out. Chaitanya’s team provides vital weather forecasts for Vikrant.
“Wind plays a vital role in airplane landings, for example. Where does the wind come from? Is there a chance of rain? Our team reveals similar expectations. We will always reveal the expectations,” he explained.
Aircraft carriers are unique when compared to other warships. They can move our entire mission in times of need.
With Vikrant joining the Navy, India will now have two aircraft carriers.
However, the Navy says another will be needed. Naval chiefs have said this many times.
Military experts say that despite the Modi government’s emphasis on self-reliance in the defense sector, the defense sector is not getting enough funding.
Retired Vice Admiral AK Chawla, who closely monitored Vikrant’s performance, told us that there is a need to focus more on funding.
China recognized the need for such ships in the 1980s. After economic liberalization they paid special attention to the navy. Now look.. they have become the biggest naval power in the world. They are developing aircraft carriers at lightning speed. We cannot develop such ships overnight. It takes a lot of time. We will need more ships like Vikrant,” he explained.
Outside like this..
Outside the ship, the naval band is preparing for special events. Sirens of big cranes are also heard.
In January 2003, the government approved the proposal to build this ship. However, its works started in 2007.
This ship entered the sea for the first time in 2013. The government hopes that it will reach the Navy by 2016-17.
However, the second phase of the construction has been very delayed. There has been a delay especially in weapons, propulsion systems and aviation complexes that are supposed to come from Russia.
Madhu Nair, Chairman and Managing Director of Kochi Shipyard Limited (CSL) said that it took 13 years to complete this ship. “We are not boasting that we have completed the work in 13 years. We can do better. But, this is our first attempt. We are satisfied in this matter,” he said.
“When we compare with China, we should also remember the conditions there. In this regard, China is advancing faster than America and Britain,” he said.
How much did it cost?
In total, the government has spent Rs.20,000 crores for Vikrant.
76 percent of the materials required for ship construction were purchased from domestic companies. For this, CSL and Navy have signed agreements with a total of 500 domestic companies.
The government says that a total of 15,000 jobs have been created in 13 years through this ship building.
CSL General Manager (Design) Anjana KR said that the formal induction of Vikrant into the Navy is a wonderful event.
“I worked with the materials department in 2009 for designing. We have contracted with various companies for equipment. There were many challenges at that time. At one time I felt that this project would not go ahead. But, the navy, the government, we moved forward together,” she said.
Anjana was emotional when Vikrant went into the sea for the first time in 2013.
“This ship is like a child to me. It has been with me for many years. From the design to the present day, we have seen everything closely. Now it seems that our daughter is married and sent to her mother-in-law. They (Navy) should take care of it,” she said with a smile.