Saturday, December 10, 2011
Navy hits blue water block
In what may eventually hurt its blue water ambition, many strategic projects of the Indian Navy, ranging from expanding a major naval base on the west coast and manufacturing of many more killer submarines, are nowhere close to realisation.
The latest casualty in the long-list of delay is the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) whose sea trial has been put off by six months. The 40,000-tonne carrier being constructed at the Cochin Shipyard is now expected to go for the sea trial by the middle of 2012.
The delay happened because its gear boxes and generators had not arrived in time as a result of which the time plan was rescheduled, said Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma.
The Navy ordered 45 carrier-borne fighters, MiG-29K, for the IAC and the Russian-origin “INS Vikramaditya”. The delivery of the first batch of 16 fighters would be completed by March. But in the absence of any carrier, the fighters are now cooling their heels in Goa.
The Navy’s ambitious second phase expansion plan of Karwar naval base is also stuck. The Rs 20,000-crore project has not yet received the Finance Ministry approval after getting the defence ministry nod.
The phase-II envisages constructing more than twenty additional piers so that the base can house more than 40 ships and submarines at any point of time. Both carriers – “INS Vikramaditya” and IAC – will be based at Karwar, which would release pressure on Mumbai. A top Navy officer said the nuclear reactor on-board “INS Arihant” submarine had not yet gone critical and a certificate from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board would be required before the reactor is fired. The Navy chief, however, assured that the boomer would be on patrol duty before 2012 ended.
Another big-time project to have a second assembly line of six conventional submarines (75I) is also not anywhere close to the starting point as the Navy was trying to avoid a “single vendor” situation. In the initial phase, the project took time, because of issues in “defining the technology” and “creating more stealthy features,” which may include air-independent propulsion that allows conventional diesel-electric submarines to stay longer under water.
The first submarine assembly line under construction at Mazgaon dock is already delayed by close to three years. The first Scorpene submarine is now expected only in 2015 rather than the original target date of 2012.
The Naval satellite too is not on the radar, but the responsibility lies primarily with Isro, which encountered a series of failures with its geo-stationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV).