Defence: 5 things to know about INS Vikrant, the first “made in India” aircraft carrier

Posted on September 2, 2022, 7:00 AM

This Friday, India officially put the new aircraft carrier into service, in a ceremony led by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. A source of pride because it was the first aircraft carrier to be completely designed and manufactured in the country. This, even though a quarter of its ingredients still come from abroad.

Construction of the building began in 2009, but suffered many delays. It was originally due to be delivered in 2017, but did not undergo its first sea trials until early 2022. It was handed over to the Indian Navy for final trials at the end of July.

1. It is the first fully Indian designed aircraft carrier

INS Vikrant is the fourth aircraft carrier commissioned by the Indian Navy. The first, now called INS Vikrant, was acquired from Great Britain in 1957 and decommissioned in 1997. The second, INS Viraat, was also purchased from Great Britain and remained in service from 1987 to 2017. Only the third , INS Vikramaditya , which was acquired from Russia in 2004 and entered service in 2013 after long and extensive modifications, is still in service. It is, in fact, the headquarters of the Indian Navy

262 meters long and 60 meters wide, the new INS Vikrant is completely Indian design and 76% of its components come from India. No less than 500 companies located in 18 of the country’s 29 states and seven union territories are involved. According to the local press, the construction of this ship, which started in 2009, will cost around 2.8 billion dollars.

Accommodating a crew of 1,700 people, it has a displacement of about 45,000 tons. This is more than the French Charles-de-Gaulle, which accounted for 42,500, but far from the competitors of China (more than 80,000 for Fujian delivered in June) or American (Gerald Ford of the US Navy totaled 100,000 tons ).

2. Its name owes nothing to chance

A sign of the importance of this building for India, its name was chosen carefully. Besides the fact that Vikrant means “brave” in Sanskrit, it is not the first Indian military ship to bear this name.

This is another aircraft carrier, bought from Great Britain at the end of the 1950s, and which has distinguished itself, during its thirty-six years of service, on many occasions in history. And who remains in the collective memory of the country because he played an important role during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971.

3. It is not yet clear which planes it will carry

This is undoubtedly the least glorious point, which New Delhi will not emphasize. As of now, in fact, no one knows which fighter planes will carry INS Vikrant. The choice is still undecided between Dassault’s Rafale-Marine and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III. But the decision must be made quickly, senior Indian officials assured last week, as New Delhi expects the INS Vikrant to be fully armed and operational by mid-2023.

In any case, since the beginning of the year, the two competing aircraft have been tested, especially to measure their ability to take off from a bridge without a catapult. The only certainty is that the 26 aircraft to be purchased by the navy will be “interim” for the five to seven years that are still needed for the development of a twin-engine fighter on which the DRDO, India’s armaments agency, is working. .

4. This is an opportunity for the Indian Navy to abandon its colonial flag

The highlight of the building commission, on the occasion of the ceremony, is a new naval flag that will fly on Vikrant. This new pavilion has been described by Narendra Modi’s office as “a milestone” in India’s military history.

The cross of Saint George, symbol of England and appearing on the flag of the Indian navy since 1928 (except for a brief period in the early 2000s), should disappear. The new flag will “turn its back on the colonial past (…) and illustrate the rich Indian maritime past”, assured the Prime Minister’s entourage.

5. The Indian Navy wants to build a 3rd aircraft carrier

With the commissioning of INS Vikrant, India also has two aircraft carriers. But this is not enough for the General Staff of the Indian Navy, which does not hide the fact that it is necessary to launch the construction of a third building, which will be larger in order to maintain a military advantage in the Indian Ocean. In particular in front of China which, for several years, has increased its efforts to acquire a fleet of modern aircraft carriers. And that is more in the region, especially in Sri Lanka, and has shown strength in its recent maneuvers around Taiwan.

The Indian military is pleading for the rapid construction of a new aircraft carrier, which will be at least 65,000 tons and this time with catapults to facilitate the flight of the aircraft. Due to the knowledge gained during the construction of INS Vikrant, only eight years were needed to complete this new ship, plus the development of the General Staff. But so far, these arguments have not borne fruit and no budget has been released for it.

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