• INS Vikrant was named after the warship that played a crucial role in the 1971 war.
  • Designed: By the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND), the carrier has been built at Cochin Shipyard Limited, a public sector shipyard under the Ministry of Shipping.It is a shining example in the nation’s quest for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India Initiative,’ with more than 76 percent indigenous content.”
  • It is the largest and most complex warship ever to be designed and built in India.
  • INS Vikrant will complement the INS Vikramaditya, currently the navy’s lone carrier, which was acquired from Russia in 2013. 
  • It will have an air component of 30 aircraft, comprising MiG-29K fighter jetsKamov-31 airborne early warning helicopters, and the soon-to-be-inducted MH-60R multi-role helicopter, besides the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters.
  • It is expected to have a top speed of 30 knots (approximately 55 kmph) and is propelled by four gas turbines. Its endurance is 7,500 nautical miles at 18 knots (32 kmph) speed.
  • The shipborne weapons include Barak LR SAM and AK-630, while it has MFSTAR and RAN-40L 3D radars as sensors. The vessel has a Shakti EW (Electronic Warfare) Suite.
  • It has a pair of runways and a ‘short take-off but arrested recovery’ system to control aircraft operations.

Significance for India

An aircraft carrier is a command platform epitomizing ‘dominance’ over a large area, ‘control’ over vast expanses of the ocean, and all aspects of maritime strength. It makes India only the fifth country after the US, Russia, Britain, and France to have such capabilities of developing indigenous aircraft carriers.

  • In support of Land Battles
    • During the 1971 operations for liberation of Bangladesh, the aircraft onboard INS Vikrant was employed very successfully to strike strategic targets deep inside the erstwhile East Pakistan. It is important to note that as long as much of India’s land boundary (stretching from north-west to north-east) remains disputed, the potential of a border conflict, and thereby the likelihood of such a need, will persist. Thus the new Aircraft carrier would give strategic advantage to India in case of future conflicts.
  • Security of Sea-Lines of Communication
    • In the event of a military conflict, a carrier is the only naval asset that can provide a comprehensive protection to merchant shipping carrying strategic commodities to India. The Indian naval chief recently expressed apprehensions on the future vulnerability of energy imports through the Strait of Hormuz due to China’s strategic “foothold” in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
    • Like Gwadar, many other locations (“pearls”) in the Indian Ocean littoral dispersed along the arterial shipping routes bear a similar potential. Owing to the ongoing diversification of energy sources away from the Persian Gulf area, these distant Security of Sea-Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and thereby Aircraft carriers are also assuming strategic significance for India.
  • Maintaining Influence in IOR:
    • India’s security is directly linked to and closely enmeshed with that of the Indian Ocean and the adjoining littoral region (IOR)—the area of its primary strategic interest. The Chinese “pearls” in the Indian Ocean, besides addressing Beijing’s strategic vulnerability in terms of its energy imports, is likely to be aimed at “displacing” India’s influence in the IOR.
    • A possible Chinese politico-military intervention in the region will seriously impinge on India’s security. In that sense, an aircraft carrier like Vikrant can bestow on India a capability to maintain its influence in these waters and achieve a strategic “dissuasion” against any inimical extra-regional power.
  • Safeguarding Vital Interests Overseas:
    • Carrier aviation will enable India to safeguard its strategic interests overseas, not only in the IOR but also beyond. India’s economic/strategic stakes are conspicuously increasing in Afro-Asian states, many of which are plagued by political, socio-economic and ethnic instabilities.
    • Besides, many Indian citizens are working in these countries, and past events have amply demonstrated how their lives and property can be jeopardised. New Delhi will need to safeguard these interests in conjunction with the host nations. When the operational situation warrants, it may be preferable to carry out precision air-strikes to “soften” the target before inserting ground forces, since to do otherwise may lead to avoidable casualties.
  • Security of Island Territories:
    • Integral naval aviation is essential for defence of India’s far-flung island territories, particularly the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N) that lie more than 1,000 km from the Indian mainland. These islands are also extremely vulnerable due to their geographical spread, and the fact that most of these are uninhabited.
    • The possibility of foreign military occupation or claim may be unlikely in the foreseeable future, but cannot be ruled out altogether. The take-over of the Falklands Islands by Argentina was also considered a remote possibility until it actually occurred in 1982. By all indicators, high-value naval/air assets are unlikely to be based in the A&N Islands. This makes the aircraft carrier indispensable, even as a deterrent.
  • Non-military Missions:
    •  Although the concept of a carrier is essentially centered on its military role, such a platform would substantially increase India’s operational options to respond to a natural disaster in the regional seas or littoral. While it has begun inducting large sealift platforms with integral helicopters like the INS Jalashwa Landing Platform Dock (LPD), a disaster of a large magnitude may necessitate the employment of a carrier.
    • Akin to a floating city, a carrier like Vikrant can provide virtually unlimited sealift, substantial airlift and all conceivable essential services ranging from freshwater to electric supply, and medical to engineering expertise. There is an effort to further enhance the usefulness of a carrier for such roles, such as by incorporating a modular concept. It incorporates modular spaces/containers carrying specialized personnel, engineering equipment, medical facilities, etc., which can be rapidly deployed for specific missions.
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