India got its first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier with Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioning INS Vikrant in Kochi, marking a significant step towards strengthening the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ goal in the strategic sector of defence.
Named after her illustrious predecessor, which had played a vital role in the 1971 war, INS Vikrant is designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house Warship Design Bureau (WDB) and built by the Cochin Shipyard, a public sector shipyard. With the commissioning of Vikrant, India will have two operational aircraft carriers, which will bolster the maritime security of the nation.
Vikrant has been equipped with 32 Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (MRSAM). The aircraft carrier will also be equipped with AK 630 rotary canons as well as the Kavach anti-missile naval decoy system.
The Vikrant has a displacement of 42,800 tonnes and can carry over 30 aircraft and accommodate a crew of around 1,600 people. With a cruising speed of 18 knots and a maximum speed of 28 knots, the Vikrant has a maximum range of 7,500 nautical miles.
The Vikrant has 76 per cent indigenous content, which includes combat management system, electronic warfare suite, data network, and integrated platform management system, among others.
As far as the origin of the word goes, the ‘Vi’ prefix in the Sanskrit word Vikrant denotes something that is distinctive or extraordinary, and the ‘krant’ suffix means to move or advance in a direction.
“The induction and reincarnation of Vikrant is not only another step towards strengthening our defence preparedness, but also our humble tribute to the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters for the Independence of the nation and our brave soldiers during the 1971 war.” the Indian Navy has said.
Along with the pennant number R11, the newly commissioned INS Vikrant also carries forward the motto of its predecessor – “Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprudhah” – from the Rigveda which means: “I conquer those who fight against me”.
HOW BIG IS THE INS VIKRANT?
Stretching to 262m, Vikrant in its length exceeds that of two football fields and is 62m wide. Its height of 59m packs in 14 decks in all and the vessel features over 2,300 compartments and provides room for a crew of 1,600 personnel and includes specialised cabins for women officers.
HOW WAS IT BUILT?
Construction of the vessel began in 2009 at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) and the total cost involved is around Rs 23,000 crore.
Officials have been reported as saying that the “the power used in the ship can light up half of Kochi city” and that all the cables on board run to a total length of 2,600km. Maj. Manoj Kumar, the designer architect, shared that the steel used in the ship was equivalent to three Eiffel towers. “There is a fully functional medical complex inside the ship with two operation theatres. There is a kitchen to cater to the needs of at least 2,000 staff… We can park 20 aircraft in the hangar,” he had told reporters in August 2021.
The ship also contains 150km of pipes and 2,000 valves along with a “wide range of finished products, including rigid hull boats, galley equipment, air-conditioning and refrigeration plants, and steering gear”.
WHAT ARE THE AIRCRAFT IT WILL CARRY?
The defence ministry said the vessel has been designed to operate “an assortment of fixed wing and rotary aircraft”. According to the Navy, it will be carrying the Russian-made MiG-29K fighter jet and Kamov-31 early warning helicopters along with the indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and the MH-60R multirole helicopter made by the American defence major Lockheed Martin.
HOW MANY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS DOES THE INDIAN NAVY OPERATE?
The only operational aircraft carrier with the Indian Navy before Vikrant joined the fleet was the INS Vikramaditya, which had served in the erstwhile Soviet and, therefter, the Russian navy as Admiral Gorshkov before being inducted by India in 2013.
Globally, only five or six countries are said to have the capability of designing and executing the construction of an aircraft carrier which, experts say, is “considered the most valuable sea-based asset, [offering] an incomparable military instrument with its ability to project tactical air power over long distances”.
An aircraft carrier serves as the lead vessel of what is known as a strike or battle group and being equally valuable and vulnerable, is escorted by a host of other vessels, including destroyers, submarines and supply ships on its outings on the high seas.
THE ‘AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT’ PUSH
Over 76 per cent of the material and equipment on board the carrier is indigenous, including 21,500 tonnes of special grade steel developed indigenously and used in Indian naval ships for the first time.
The Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has said that the shipping yard “carried out the detailed engineering of the ship using advanced software which enabled the designer to get a complete 3D view of the compartments of the ship”. This is the “first time in the country that a ship of the size of an aircraft carrier is completely modelled in 3D and production drawings extracted from the 3D model”.
DEMAND FOR ANOTHER CARRIER
Over the last few years, top commanders have been insisting for a third carrier apart from Russian-origin Kiev-class INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-II will be named INS Vishal with a proposed displacement of around 65,000 tonnes, equalling the Queen Elizabeth-class of carriers of the UK. The idea is for India to have two carriers at any given point in time, if a third is in the refit, The Indian Express reported.
(Inputs from Agencies)