INS Viraat heads for 5-month long refit, setback for Navy plans It looks as if India's plan to have three carrier battle groups, centred around INS Viraat, INS Vikramaditya and an indigenously built aircraft carrier in Cochin shipyard, has suffered a huge setback, reports RS Chauhan The Indian Navy will be without an operational aircraft carrier for over four months between November and March 2013 as the lone and ageing INS Viraat heads for a longer refit to Cochin very soon, top sources in the naval headquarters say. The naval HQ has told the defence ministry that the delay in delivery of INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) from Russia has made it imperative for the Navy to prolong the lifespan of India's lone aircraft carrier, INS Viraat. INS Viraat, formerly HMS Hermes, a British ship, is over half a century old and has undergone several upgrades and life extensions, as India has been unable to either build its own carrier or get the Russians to deliver one for the past eight years. With the latest schedule for a longer refit to be carried out at the Cochin Shipyard, INS Viraat will be out of action till late March-early April, the sources said. Meanwhile, India is likely to seek clarity from Russia about the revised delivery schedule of INS Vikramaditya this week since media reports have been contradictory. The Hindu newspaper, reporting from Moscow, said the sea trials were not a failure as initially reported. Its Moscow reporter said: 'The controversial sea trials of the INS Vikramaditya in Russia, initially described as an embarrassing failure, appear to have actually been a success, while propulsion problems developed by the aircraft carrier are not nearly as serious as reported in the media.' 'After the ship returned to the Sevmash shipyard a week ago, the Indian Navy's overseeing team, who closely monitored the sea trials, came to the conclusion that the ship had overall done extremely well and the programme of tests had been largely fulfilled. 'The results of the trials were analysed and the remaining work was detailed in a protocol signed by Vice Admiral Nadella Niranjan Kumar, controller, warship production and acquisition (CWPA). 'The main conclusion from the trials is that the INS Vikramaditya has stood the test as a full-fledged highly capable aircraft carrier converted from the former hybrid missile-cum-aviation cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. The ship displayed excellent seaworthiness and manoeuvrability and performed flawlessly during aircraft takeoff and landing. Its sophisticated radio-electronic, navigation and other systems demonstrated high efficiency and reliability,' the newspaper reported. The Times of India, on the other hand, said: 'The delivery of the already much-delayed Vikramaditya was to take place on December 9 as per the re-revised timeline, but crippling engine-boiler malfunctions during the carrier's recent sea trials have put paid to the plan... and now, it's certain the 44,570-ton Vikramaditya will not be ready for induction anytime before end-2013 at the earliest.' Against this backdrop, it looks as if India's plan to have three carrier battle groups, centred around INS Viraat, INS Vikramaditya and an indigenously built aircraft carrier in Cochin shipyard, has suffered a huge setback following these developments.