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India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant finally sets for sea trials

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant finally sets for sea trials

New Delhi: India’s first indigenously made aircraft carrier, Vikrant, sets off on its maiden sea trials on Wednesday, 50 years after its namesake’s key role in the 1971 war.

Also Read :- Vikrant, India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, not a liability: Navy

A tweet from the Navy Spokesperson’s handle hailed this “proud and historical moment for India”, particularly since it represents another step in the government’s quest for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and the ‘Make in India’ initiative, and promised “many more will follow…”

“India joins a select group of nations having niche capability to indigenously design, build and integrate a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier. Reaching this milestone despite COVID-19 challenges (was) made possible by dedicated efforts of all stakeholders,” the Navy said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called the Vikrant’s maiden sea trials a “true testimony to our unwavering commitment to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat'”.

“Maiden sea sortie of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant is a true testimony to our unwavering commitment to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in Defence. Realisation of this historic milestone, regardless of Covid, shows true dedication & commitment of all stakeholders. A proud moment for India,” he said.

Describing the launch of the maiden sea trials of the 40,000-tonne IAC as a “proud and historic day”, the Navy said India has now joined a select group of countries to have the “niche capability” to indigenously design, build and integrate a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier.

Built at the Cochin Shipyard for around Rs 23,000 crore, the IAC will become fully operational only after the flight trials of MiG-29K supersonic fighter jets, MH-60R multi-role helicopters and the indigenously manufactured ALHs (advanced light helicopters) are completed from its deck by around mid-2023.

Once deployed, the IAC will pack quite an offensive punch and project raw military power on the high seas. It will be christened INS Vikrant after the country’s firstaircraft carrier, which was acquired from the UK in 1961 and eventually decommissioned in 1997. In its long and glorious operational service, the original INS Vikrant also played a major role during the 1971 war.

The basin trials of the IAC, which was first sanctioned by the government way back in January 2003, were completed last year to prove the main propulsion plant of the ship in harbour as a precursor to the sea trials. 

A statement from the Navy said Vikrant is 262m long, a maximum of 62m wide and 59m high, including the superstructure. It has 14 decks – five in the superstructure. Designed for a crew of around 1,700, it has over 2,300 compartments, including cabins to accommodate women officers.

“The ship has been designed with a very high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation and survivability… has a top speed of around 28 knots (approx. 52 km per hour) and cruising speed of 18 knots (approx. 33.37 km per hour) with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles (approx. 13,900 km),” the Navy said in its statement.

India currently has only one aircraft carrier, the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya, inducted from Russia for $2.33 billion in November 2013. Another $2 billion was spent on procuring 45 MiG-29Ks to operate from its deck.

Vikrant will operate with approximately 24 Russian-built MiG-29K fighter jets – the same fighters already deployed on the INS Vikramaditya, presently the Navy’s only operational aircraft carrier.

“With the delivery of IAC (Vikrant), India will join a select group of nations with the capability to indigenously design and build an aircraft carrier, which will be a real testimony to the make-in-India thrust of the Indian Government,” the Navy said, adding that its ship-building programme also includes 44 ships and submarines – all being built indigenously, it said.

Vikrant, expected to be commissioned into service next year, will add superior combat capability, range and versatility to the country’s naval might, Rajnath Singh had said in June.

“The combat capability, reach and versatility will add formidable capabilities in the defence of our country and help secure India’s interests in the maritime domain,” Mr Singh said after visiting Vikrant, which was docked in Kerala’s Cochin Port at the time.”

Commissioning of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) next year will be a befitting tribute to 75 years of India’s independence,” Mr Singh said, adding it boasts of nearly 75 per cent nationally-sourced content – from design specs to steel used in construction, and from key weapons to sensors.

China, meanwhile, is assiduously ramping up its naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region. Fast-tracking its aircraft carrier plans, China already has two carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, and is building two more towards its aim of eventually having 10 of them.

The US Navy, of course, has as many as 11 “super” 100,00-tonne carriers, each of which can carry 80-90 fighters. A ‘carrier strike group’ of an aircraft carrier and its accompanying warships is a self-contained and composite war-fighting machine, with inherent flexibility and mobility to shift to a new theatre of operations in 48 to 72 hours.

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