Indian press reports the INS Viraat arriving in Kochi on 02NOV12 for periodic refit at the Cochin Shipyard (CSL). The work is expected to last at least three months. (Earlier reports said the refit would take much longer leaving India without a working aircraft carrier until March 2013).
According to the Hindu, the vessel will be dry-docked at the shipyard sometime during the week of 05NOV12, primarily for the restoration of its hull and gears. As reported, the current refit flies in the face of Indian policy which seeks to maintain one aircraft carrier “battle group” at all times.
In other but yet related news, the construction of India’s maiden Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at the CSL has also fallen behind schedule due to the non-delivery of certain critical equipment, including the gear box and diesel alternators (see: IE). The IAC, which was floated out at a low-key ceremony in January 2012, is projected to be officially launched next year. (Note: Certain India media streams have misinterpreted the IAC’s movement out of the drydock as the official launch. Unfortunately, the dry dock was reportedly needed for other commercial requirements.)
A report from Defense Now indicated that CSL had completed about 14,000 tonne work on the IAC before the float out in January leaving 6,000 tonne of work to be completed before the official launch. After launching, the warship will “undergo interior fittings, including the laying of cables, before being brought back into the building bay once again for integration of the propulsion gear-box, generators and other critical equipment.”
That said, Cochin shipyards, as observed above, only has two large dry docks. With one refitting the Viraat and the other dealing with commercial activity, the IAC may yet fall further behind schedule increasing the risks of India failing to maintain one carrier “battle group.” Such problems highlight the need for India to maintain robust diplomacy with regional countries in order to buy more time for its indigenous industrial base to further develop its production capabilities.