Mumbai, Apr 4: The naval version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is expected to be ready in two to two-and-a-half years and would be fully inducted in the blue-water navy in another few years, Chief of Naval Staf Admiral Arun Prakash today said.
Interacting with the mediapersons here after flagging off a naval sailors' adventure expedition to Cochin, Admiral Prakash expressed satisfaction over what he saw during his recent visit to Bangalore where the naval variant of the LCA was being developed, saying LCA would provide more teeth to the Navy.
Asked about the recent reports in the US media suggesting the visit of an Iranian naval team to India possibly coming as one of the obstacles in the passage of the Indo-US nuclear accord through the Capitol Hill, Admiral Prakash described such reports as ''totally misplaced due to some misunderstanding.'' In fact, the Iranian cadets had come here on a goodwill visit only.
Replying to queries about recent controversy over the World-Wide Web (WWW) search engine 'Google' making public, the details of defence-related sensitive sites in India, he said these were already known and were merely ''five to six month old images.''
The difference was that Google provided them for free while others interested got it for a fee.
''We are not worried about the Google issue'', the Navy chief asserted, adding, ''the good news is that it had quite old images which would not make much impact''. When asked about the recent inquiry ordered by the Centre into the Scorpein submarine issue, Admiral Prakash expressed the hope that it would not delay the matter and the six submarines, being developed with imported French technology at Mazgaon Dock Limited, would be assembled as planned.
He said the Russian aircraft carrier 'Admiral Gorshkov' was being retrofitted in that country and was expected to reach India by 2008. The existing carrier 'Virat' was being modernised and the new Indian aircraft carrier, being assembled at Cochin, was also expected to be ready by 2012.
About the British Aerospace's Sea Harrier aircraft, Admiral Prakash pointed out that this was being fitted with new air-to-air missiles and radar systems, with Israeli help, to make them last for another five to six years, before they are replaced by MiG-29K from Russia. Both the Sea Harrier and Virat were expected to last together, he added.
When asked about the Indo-French naval exercises in Goa, he said some Indian naval ships and Virat were there along with similar French naval components. The idea was to create an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and understanding to enhance inter-operability should the need to operate jointly arose. ''We share each other's experience and work in such exercises.'' Earlier, the Navy chief told a gathering of Navy officials and others that the naval adventure team's effort was expected to be a ''quantum jump'' in inculcating the spirit of adventure. For this, the Navy had imported nine boats from Brazil and three more were expected to arrive in due course. Expressing satisfaction over Indian Navy's graduation from a brown-water to blue-water navy, he said now was the time to revive the spirit of marine adventure as a means of power. Ancient India had this tradition from 4th century BC to first century AD. Such efforts would encourage youth to take adventure as a way of life.
He said the Indian Navy, having adventure as its second nature, was introducing sailing both as a sport and as an adventure, having already undertaken in Seabird Class and Whaler Class. Now, for the first time, a batch of nine J-24 boats with a total of 45 participants from various Naval Commands will be covering the 700 nautical miles from Mumbai to Kochi (Cochin) in about ten days' duration. J-24 is an ocean-going yacht manned by a crew of five, having the means of propulsion in sails. Each boat had three sails, was 24 feet in length and required a minimum depth of 1.5 metres of water.
The Leg-I, from Mumbai to Goa, was a distance of 225 nautical miles expected to be covered in three days' time while Leg-II from Goa to Kochi was a distance of 375 nautical miles to be covered in five days or so.