India struggles with INS Vikramaditya, while China builds and commissions Shadong

India struggles with INS Vikramaditya, while China builds and commissions Shadong

New Delhi, April26:As India struggles to finish construction of its first home-grown aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, China has sailed out its first domestically built aircraft carrier. State media said the carrier, designed in China and built in the northeast port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020. Its launch follows China’s celebration on Sunday of the 68th birthday of the founding of the Chinese navy and it comes amid rising tensions over North Korea and worries about Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

 Construction of the 70,000 ton Chinese warship, which sailed out of its dry dock today, started in November 2013.  In contrast, the keel of India’s Vikrant (named after India’s first aircraft carrier), was laid in February 2009, and though she was sailed out for the first time in 2011, completion of the project may not take place before 2023 according to report from the national auditor last year.

That’s primarily because key sensors and weapon systems including its surface to air missiles and aviation complex are yet to be ordered, let alone be installed and tested, a process that can take up to a year. Ironically, the full complement of 29 Russian MiG-29K fighter jets for the carrier, orders for which were placed in 2010 for $1.2 billion, have been received.

China’s new warship, which is likely to be named the Shandong, is also considerably larger than India’s Vikrant which has a displacement of 40,000 tonnes; that  means it should be able to embark a larger number of helicopters and fighters.

The ship is thought to be an advanced variant of China’s first aircraft carrier, which was bought second-hand from the Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The new ship is thought to have additional hangar space for more aircraft in addition to improved phased array radars. Foreign military analysts and Chinese media have for months published satellite images, photographs and news stories about the second carrier’s development. China confirmed its existence in late 2015.

Comparing the efforts of India and China, a Bloomberg column said, “After decommissioning the INS Viraat earlier this year, the Indian Navy is down to a single carrier, INS Vikramaditya. Worse, the Shandong has been built at China’s own giant shipyard at Dalian; Vikramaditya is merely a repurposed 1980s-era Russian carrier formerly known as the Admiral Gorshkov.”