ADS –– Navy’s Air Craft Carrier Now ON TRACK

By Ranjit B Rai


New Delhi, 05 March 2004

Twenty First January 2004 was a red letter day for the Indian Navy’s aviators when its 10 year long quest for the carrier Gorshkov materialised. Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov accompanied by C in C Russian Navy, Admiral of the Fleet Vladimir Ivanovich Kuroedov visited New Delhi, and signed the $1.5 billion deal for the delivery of the 44,500 ton aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov in 2008, along with its attendant complement of air elements. The carrier is now at Severodvinsk where it is being overhauled and upgraded at the Servmash Yard.

India’s Defence Minister confirmed the deal to the media, but did not confirm whether the 4 TU 22M MR aircraft for the Indian Navy were also discussed.

The Gorshkov deal includes 12 custom built single seat and 4 twin seat MiG 29Ks and 6 additional Kamov 28/31 ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare)/ AEW(Airborne Early Warning) helicopters.

Naval pilots will be trained on MiG 29Ks from 2007, and possibly also get experience on IAF’s MiG 29s, as there have been exchange programmes of pilots between the two services.

The spotlight has now turned on to the Indian Navy’s home built 37,500 ton carrier called the Air Defence Ship (ADS) which was sanctioned some years ago. The carrier will be built at Cochin Shipyard Ltd in South India and facilities and preliminary work at the yard had progressed as funds were already advanced for this purpose. Cochin shipyard has refitted the INS Viraat twice, and has the experience of modernization, but building carriers ab initio will be a new experience for Indian naval architects.

The Naval design team at New Delhi have designed the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier. Unfortunately it was unable to complete the final design as it was unsure of the aircraft details, till the Gorshkov deal was inked. This has now taken place and it is hoped that the design will be completed soon.

The INS Viraat is due to be decommissioned in 2008 when the Gorshkov arrives. Hence the Navy is keen to commission the ADS by 2010.

The lifts, hangar space and servicing facilities were critically dependent on the MiG 29K decision and now work on finalizing the design has commenced in earnest.

The naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft LCA called Tejas is planned to follow the IAF’s 6 series versions, with strengthened under carriage and folding wings but that is some distance away.

Earlier in 1988, DCN of France were contracted to perform design studies for a CVL of about 28,000-tons, which was completed in 1991 at a cost of $12 million. Later after gleaning trends and defining operational needs for the Navy, it settled for a larger carrier of 37,500 tons, with an Indian Naval Design Directorate plan to include an angled ramp takeoff over bow configuration, for operating Short Takeoff But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) aircraft.

The STOVL variant of the Air Force’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will eventually be developed for the Navy, but that could not be taken into consideration for the present design, which will now be based on the MiG 29K, the current naval choice.. The ADS is expected to handle an air wing of up 18-fixed wing and four to six Advance Light Helicopter (ALH) and Kamovs.

The final design of the aircraft carrier has not been announced but the length will have to be around 240 meters for the Mig 29Ks to operate in free take off and with mathematical calculations the angle of the Ski Ramp could be in the region of 12 to 14 degrees.

All Indian yards have chosen the Tribon design software. The final working design of the Air Defence Ship, a misnomer adopted for the aircraft carrier can now be completed. In due course the line drawings will need to be converted into working drawings and construction commenced, and the yard hopes to cut the steel this year.

At present all warship steel is imported. The Navy and Cochin Shipyard have held discussions with yards abroad, which have experience of building aircraft carriers for collaboration. Admiral Madhvendra Singh the Chief of Naval Staff in a recent interview mentioned Italy, Spain and France as possible countries and so the assumption was Fincantieri, Izar and DCN as the possible contenders.

At the recently held DEFEXPO 04 in New Delhi the Italians displayed a model of the Andrea Doria which has similarities with India’s ADS, and it evinced a lot of interest. The ship has the LM 2500 gas turbines, five bladed CPP propellers, side lift and one lift forward and the ski ramp, which is reported to be in the Indian Navy’s design.

The Russians will carry out the fitment of aircraft supplies and systems akin to the Gorshkov and possibly supply the arrestor gear as they have made prototype barriers at an airfield near Moscow where the capabilities of the MiG 29K were demonstrated to the Indian Navy aviators.

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