A minor blaze was reported onboard INS Vikramaditya, India’s second aircraft carrier, and currently the only functioning one, on Saturday.
An Indian Navy spokesperson said, “The duty staff observed smoke emanating from the part of the warship having accommodation for sailors.”
The personnel on duty quickly doused out the fire. After accounting for all personnel on board, the navy is launching an inquiry into the incident.
The warship was homeported at INS Kadamba, the Indian navy base situated near Karwar, Karnataka, when the incident happened. With the end of its Phase II development in a couple of years, INS Kadamba will be the largest naval base in Asia.
Weighing about 45,000-ton, the INS Vikramaditya can carry more than 30 long-range multi-role fighters with anti-ship missiles, air-to-air missiles, guided bombs, and rockets.
Other than MiG-29k fighters which were purchased from Russia along with the carrier, the ship has Kamov 31 radar picket Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopter, Kamov 28 naval helicopter, Sea King helicopter, ALH-Dhruv, and Chetak helicopter onboard.
With an overall length of 284 meters and a maximum beam of 60 meters, the carrier has been likened to three football fields put together. At the height of 20 stories, the ship has 22 decks and can house 1,600 personnel.
It is the Indian Navy’s largest short take-off but assisted recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carrier. The naval variant of India’s indigenous LCA Tejas multi-role fighter carried out a landing trial on INS Vikramaditya on January 20, 2020.
INS Vikramaditya is the Russian Navy’s decommissioned vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) missile cruiser carrier, Admiral Gorshkov. Known as Baku, it belonged to the Kiev-class, the first class of both heavy aircraft cruisers, and battlecruisers in the Soviet Army.
After being decommissioned by Russia in 1996, the vessel was purchased by India in 2003 for $974 million. But the cost was hiked after extensive refurbishing, which included new propulsion systems, hull sections, sensors, and flight deck. A three-year-long negotiation process led to a $2.3 billion contract for the carrier.
INS Vikramaditya entered the Indian service in 2013, about the time INS Vikrant, India’s first aircraft carrier was sold. The latter had served effectively during the 1971 war and a new indigenous built carrier by the same name, part of the ‘Make in India’ scheme, is set to enter service this year.
India is also planning to acquire a third addition, INS Vishal in the next decade. The state-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) has been tasked with constructing both the indigenous aircraft carriers.
According to Robert Farley, who wrote an article in The National Interest, one of the reasons for India’s interest in developing a fleet of aircraft carriers is that it hopes to dominate the Indian Ocean.
Aircraft carriers are like floating airfields and will be crucial in controlling the ocean better than any foreign competitor through the combined use of naval and air power.
The ships will also be needed with the Indo-Pacific theatre becoming a conflict-prone zone. India has more experience than China with aircraft carriers even if the latter’s fleet outnumbers India’s. And the former can take advantage of its proximity to naval bases in the event of any conflict, Farley wrote.
Unlike countries such as China which focuses more on submarines, India commands its waters through carriers, mainly because of its crucial role in ensuring the safe passage of oil ships. Their prominence will increase as Chinese aggression rises in India’s surrounding waters.