INS Viraat, the aircraft carrier operated by the Navy, arrived in Kochi on Friday for its periodic refit at the Cochin Shipyard (CSL). The work is expected to last at least three months
The Navy’s flagship, now berthed at the Cochin Port, is expected to be dry-docked at the shipyard sometime next week, primarily for the restoration of its underwater surface and gears.
The dry-docking of the decrepit warhorse for another round of preventive maintenance comes in the wake of news from Russia about a further delay in the delivery of INS Vikramaditya, an old Russian aircraft carrier extensively rebuilt for India, which is undergoing repairs following serious steam-boiler malfunctions during sea trials.
The steam-boiler breakdown put paid to the Navy’s policy of retaining at least one carrier battle group (CBG) in operation at any given time. The latest development has pushed the delivery date back by another year.
Meanwhile, the construction of India’s maiden Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at the CSL has also slipped behind schedule due to the non-delivery of certain qualified critical equipment, including the gear box. The IAC, which was floated out at a low-key ceremony earlier this year, is likely to be taken to the building bay later this year.
The ageing INS Viraat, which underwent a life-enhancing refit at the CSL ahead of its golden jubilee in 2009, is said to be in good shape and to expected to last till 2018, by which time the Navy would have inducted Vikramaditya and, possibly, the IAC as well.
In the refit, INS Viraat’s hull and underwater equipment will be cleaned and probed for corrosion and, if need be, weak hull parts reinforced with fresh metal plates.
The hull of the mammoth vessel, which displaces 28,000 tonnes, will also get a fresh coat of corrosion-resistant paint. Everything underwater — the rudder, propeller and so on — will be checked and made failsafe. Concurrently, the systems and equipment on board the ship will also get a lift as per the Navy’s maintenance schedule, naval sources said.
Commissioned into the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom as HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959, the Centaur-class vessel became part of the Indian Navy in 1987.