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India launches its first indigenous aircraft carrier
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Kochi, August 12
India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, entered the waters today, marking a red letter day in the country’s maritime history and achieving an important milestone in the shipbuilding industry. Being built by the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), the ship-the largest to be built in the country so far-was formally launched by Elizabeth Antony, wife of defence minister AK Antony at the CSL dockyard here.

Though operationalisation of the warship is still about five years away, INS Vikrant, with its compliment of 1,600 personnel and 20 fighters comprising 12 MiG-29K and eight Tejas and 10 helicopters would form a critical component of the Indian Navy’s doctrine of sea dominance towards securing national interest.

While India’s principal adversary in south Asia, Pakistan, has no aircraft carrier or any major ship building industry, which forces it to adopt the defensive posture of sea denial vis-à-vis India, China inducting an aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that in future could be deployed in the Indian Ocean, has added a new dimension to the security situation in the region.

While the Indian Navy desires to have three aircraft carriers, for the time being it will have to make do with two carrier groups. INS Vikramaditya, the rechristened ex-Soviet Gorshkov, is expected to joining the Indian fleet by this year end, while INS Vikrant is expected to be commissioned in 2018. At present, the Navy operates a single aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, which is on its last legs and expected to be decommissioned in 3-4 years.

Terming today’s launch of INS Vikrant (P-71) as a “remarkable milestone”, Antony asked CSL personnel to cut down on time frames where ever possible so that the new carrier can become operational at the earliest. The 37,500-tonne ship is being built at a cost of Rs 500 crore.

He said that the launch of the carrier marks just the first step of a long journey, but at the same time an important one. 

Stressing that the country’s warship building programme must meet the Navy’s requirements, he added that we must continue the process of strengthening indigenous capability towards securing our maritime interests and at the same time the Navy must continue to maintain high operational readiness at all times.

The project was conceived in 1989 and in 2006, the concept was finalised and go ahead given for construction. The carrier’s was laid in February 2009. With a length of 262 meters, its flight deck is over twice the size of a football field and it will have two runways with a ski-jump along with an angled deck for arrested recovery of aircraft. Its two LM-2500 gas turbine engines are capable of producing 24 MW electricity, enough to light up the city of Kochi, while its 2,700 km of cabling can cover the distance from the dockyard to New Delhi.

The carrier will have a very high degree of automation for machinery operation, navigation and survivability. Long range surface-to-air missile systems with multi-function radar and close-in weapon systems, modern C and D-Band early warning radars, tactical air navigational and direction finding systems and carrier control approach radar would be added. Integration of all weapon systems onboard the carrier would be through an indigenously developed Combat Management System.

“Vikrant”, in Hindi means courageous or bold. The new ship has been named after INS Vikrant (R-11), India’s first aircraft carrier that had played a decisive role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and was decommissioned in 1997.











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