INS Vikrant begins its Sea Trials: What is Sea Trials? What happens next?

Indian’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant started Sea Trials this week. The Made in India Carrier is designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy and the Carrier was built by Cochin Shipyard Limited using Indian Steel. Construction started back in November 2009 and after 12 years, the carrier has finally started undergoing Sea Trial. INS Vikrant is expected to be commissioned in the Indian Navy in late 2022. Once Commissioned, India will have two Aircraft Carriers: INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.

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Building INS Vikrant has also given India first-hand experience in designing and building an Aircraft Carrier at home. This experience will go a long way in speeding up the construction of the next Indian-made Carrier INS Vishal which is expected to be commissioned by 2030. INS Vishal will be heavier by 15,000 tonnes and is expected to have a Catapult Launch system as we see in American Aircraft Carriers instead of a Ski ramp.

But what is Sea Trial and what happens after the Trials? This question may be bugging some of you and we have answers to both of these questions.

Sea Trial
INS Vikrant heading out for Sea Trial

What are Sea Trials?

Sea Trials are generally a series of rigorous tests done to ensure that all the systems onboard the ship are working fine and to make sure the Ship meets the requirements set by the Navy. Sea Trials is the last phase of the construction process and is done in the Open Waters aka the Sea to confirm that the ship’s hull, mechanical, electrical, and other systems function as required. Sea Trials of a ship are important to ensure the overall safety of the ship, the crew, and the equipment onboard. Sea Trials are very common and even commissioned ships that have undergone major repairs go through Sea Trials.

Sea Trials are done by the shipyard that built the vessel with assistance from the Navy. Generally, Ships go through Three Trials with the first being dock trials, which often include machinery trials, conducted while the ship is still tied to the pier.

Sea Trials
Turning Circle Test

The second is builder’s trials aka Sea Trial, which are performed at sea by the contractors who built the ship which in INS Vikrant‘s case is Cochin Shipyard Limited. Tests during Sea Trials include but are not limited to Draft Measurement, Anchor Test, Steering Gear Test, Main Engine Endurance Test, Speed Trials, Crash Stop Tests, Astern Running, Turning Circle Test, Navigation Equipment Test, Black Out Test, Kempf’s Overshoot maneuver test, etc. Aside from this, the ship is monitored for any leakages, noise levels especially in the Engine room, Fuel consumption among other systems.

Sea Trials
Kempf Overshoot maneuver test

After the Sea Trial, the results are studied and if found acceptable by the Shipbuilder and the Navy, additional equipment and weapon systems are installed on the Ship. If the results do not satisfy the requirements of the Navy or there were some technical problems or failures, the shipbuilder is given a period to make modifications to the Ship, after which, Sea Trials are carried out again. Once Both the Navy and the Builder are satisfied, the ship is fitted with additional equipment along with weapon systems, and the Ship is handed over to the Navy for further trials.

Sea Trials
INS Vikrant at Night during Trials

What happens after Trials?

During the Sea Trials, the Carrier does not have any Arresting Wires on the Flight deck and there are no Flight Operations done on the Carrier except Helicopter Operations. Once the Sea Trials are completed successfully, the Navy conducts its own trials called “Acceptance trials”. Acceptance Trials are done by the Navy in the Open Sea and include testing of various weapon systems like Close-in Weapon System (CIWS), Long Range/Short Range Air to Air Missiles, Arresting wire tests. Flight Operations onboard the Carrier are also performed during Acceptance Trials.

Once Acceptance Trials are done and the Navy is satisfied, it gives a green light. Once given all clear, the Carrier is given a paint job with anti-corrosion paint and other cosmetic upgrades are done to the ship after which she is all set to be commissioned into the Navy.

In Video: Indian Navy's Westland Seaking Helicopter perform First Landing on INS Vikrant

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