India has kept the construction of its indigenous aircraft carrier on track despite the Covid crisis by using innovative methods like video conferencing but the fast paced carrier build up by China remains a reason for concern, specially as Beijing is looking westward to expand influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
Sources told ET that the construction of the Vikrant aircraft carrier at Kochi has been on track, though other shipyards executing warship orders have lagged behind by a few months due to the Covid crisis. The ship is expected to joint the Navy next year and become operational by 2022 as per current plans.
“At some yards, six to seven months have been lost due to the Covid crisis but CSL (Cochin Shipyard Ltd) did not take a break. A lot of effort was put in, including setting up cameras all across the ship so that original equipment manufacturers could monitor progress and work was carried out despite the crises,” sources told ET.
Other yards, like the Mumbai based Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL), which is constructing submarines, frigates and destroyers for the Navy, may have lost over six months of time as more than half the staff could not turn up for work as the city became a Covid hotspot and the supply chain broke down.
However, as things stand, the Navy will have two aircraft carriers by next year, while China has been aggressively building up its carrier fleet, with current plans to field at least four of such warships. “The PLA Navy has decided to go for four carriers and all other countries in the region like Japan and South Korea are converting their ships into carriers by inducting the F 35 fighters (that can land and take off from short decks). They know air power at sea will be vital,” top sources told ET.
As reported earlier, the Navy has been pushing for another indigenously built aircraft carrier after the Vikrant joins service and has put up an operational requirement for at least three of these ships to secure maritime interests.