India’s most ambitious ship-building project, a 37,500-metric tonne aircraft carrier for the Navy, will finally get underway early next year. All teething problems of this long-delayed project, including supply of the right kind of steel, are now over.
"The keel of the Air Defence Ship (a slightly smaller version of an aircraft carrier) should hopefully be laid in January-February. It will then take seven years for the ADS to be ready," said Navy chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, speaking exclusively to The Times of India.
Though the Navy has projected the long-term need for three aircraft carriers to emerge as the most potent strategic force in the entire Indian Ocean region, it is making do with only one, INS Viraat, at the moment.
The Navy intends to extend the life of this aging carrier till 2010. The Russian 44,570-tonne, Admiral Gorshkov carrier, with its complement of 16 MiG-29K jet fighters, in turn, will be ready for induction in the Navy only by mid-2008.
"After we have both Gorshkov and ADS operating by 2011-2012, we will see about the third carrier. We will operate the naval Light Combat Aircraft and MiG-29Ks from the ADS," said Admiral Prakash.
The main hurdle to the ADS, which will be build at the Cochin shipyard and cost upwards of Rs 4,000 crore, in recent months was getting the right quality of 20,000 tonne of steel for it.
"The ADS was designed with a certain Russian brand of steel in mind. But when it came to actual supply, Russia expressed its inability. Steel Authority of India is now developing that steel and will supply it in the quantities we need," said the Navy chief.
A 22-million Euro contract was signed with Italian firm Fincantieri earlier this year for design, integration, installation and commissioning of the propulsion system of the ADS.
Another contract, worth six million Euro, is for consultancy in detailed engineering and documentation.