Millennium Post

India to lift veil on INS Vikramaditya in March-end

As is being planned, possibly prime minister Manmohan Singh along with the defence minister AK Antony, will see the carrier sail off in full regalia i.e. with its flotilla of other ships like destroyers, frigates and other ships.

But at the moment, more important tasks are being accomplished. For example, the crucial element of ‘move’ takes place in the engine room of the ship, in a ‘float, move, fight’ training paradigm. The gigantic boiler/s a 44,000-tonne ship requires is manned by a team, termed the ‘boiler stream.’

These sailors who would man the carrier’s boiler have been trained in managing them, rotating through the Godavari class, Betwa class and Jalashwa vessels ever since the contract was inked in mid-2000. After a decade of doing the job in these ships, they will now move into the engine room of Vikramaditya.

Similarly, the ‘sailor’ pilots who would fly off the deck of in the spanking new MiG-29Ks were also inducted into the service around the same time of the contract. As a senior naval officer explained, ‘While the contract negotiating committee were ending their job, the personnel division of the navy were getting into the act of recruitment in terms of future needs.’

They have flown from INS Viraat, the old and extended life carrier of the navy and also at INS Hansa, the main aviation base of the force in Goa, where a shore-based training facility (SBTF) was built just keeping the need of Vikramaditya in mind.

Ten of the ‘sailor’ pilots were also sent to Russia to train, so that on return they could share their skills with the others. At the moment, navy work-up teams at Cochin-based training command, led by the fleet officer sea training  (FOST), are getting ready to ‘steam up and put to sea the carrier.’

They will also oversee the carrier landings of the pilots and examine them under almost a microscope. The air-categorisation personnel, flight safety inspection teams, quality assurance teams etc are going through the various activities of the 1,500 sailors who will man the ship.

These inspectors will certify whether the pilots, for example, are ‘fit for flying.’ One of the key tasks of the aircraft carrier while moving in the high seas in a fleet of other attendant ships, is refuelling. Additionally, the fact that Vikramaditya will not have a on-deck anti-air capability, it will have to be under the umbrella of the anti-air nets of the accompanying destroyers. There will also be chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) drills that will have to be undertaken. These will be done by the work-up teams, who will finally certify the operational readiness clearance.
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