NEW DELHI: A major milestone in India’s maritime history was created on September 2 with the commissioning of the country’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. The event, presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has catapulted India to a select club of the world’s great naval powers with global reach and capability to operate over deep seas.
Built at a cost of Rs 23,000 crore, the 40,000-tonne warship is a reincarnation of the earlier version of INS Vikrant which had played a significant role in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The Indian Navy has been focusing on significantly bolstering its overall capabilities in view of China’s growing efforts to increase its military presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
The project has also demonstrated the strength of the public-private partnership as nearly 550 firms, including about 100 small and medium enterprises, were involved in it, providing various services overcoming the pandemicinduced difficulties. Compared with the new INS Vikrant, the old one had less than half its displacement and was over 210 metres in length against the 260 metres of the present one.
The 18-floor high ship has close to 2,400 compartments, designed to house a 1,600-strong crew. The aviation hangar is as big as two Olympic-size pools that can accommodate around 30 aircraft. With this feat, India now joins the elite club of six nations — the US, UK, Spain, Russia, France, and China — that have the capability to design and build an indigenous aircraft carrier.
Vikrant becomes the second aircraft carrier after the Russian-built INS Vikramaditya, which was commissioned in 2013. After INS Vikrant, India’s next step should be a new carrier and submarines. It is important to expedite the completion of India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vishal. This proposed carrier is intended to be a giant 65,000-tonne vessel, much bigger than IAC-1 and the INS Vikramaditya.
Now that India has developed the capability to build such vessels, it should not be whittled away. Even if the Government gives the INS Vishal project the go-ahead now, it will be over 10 years before the warship is commissioned. An aircraft carrier is one of the most potent marine assets for a nation, which enhances the Navy’s capability to carry out air domination operations.
While the United States Navy has 11 aircraft carriers, China has two and a third one is in the making and another two are likely to be commissioned within a decade. Fortuitously, India’s indigenous naval capacity-building holds better promise, as signified by INS Vikrant, even if it took twenty years from approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to commissioning.