India’s new aircraft carrier arrived from the Russian shipyard on January 7th after a 39 day journey. This was the first long range (15,000 kilometers) cruise for the Vikramaditya and was not without incident. One of the eight steam boilers failed and the carrier proved unable to refuel at sea. The Indians feel they can deal with both problems.
The boiler problem is nothing new. Back in 2012 seven of eight steam boilers in the carrier power plant failed during high-speed trials. The Russians blamed India for this, as the Indians refused to allow the Russians to use asbestos to insulate the steam boilers. Instead the Russians had to use firebrick which, as some engineers suspected, was not adequate. Extensive work had to be done on the engines to rectify the problem. It’s unclear if the recent boiler problem is related to the 2012 insulation problems.
Refueling at sea is a matter of practice and each type of ship requires slightly different moves to make it work. With practice the Vikramaditya crew will make it work and how that is done will be passed down from generation to generation of sailors who crew the ship. The tanker that was trying to refuel Vikramaditya at sea was also new to dealing with such a large ship. The Vikramaditya is a 44,000 ton ship, now the largest in the Indian Navy and the largest the navy has ever handled.