• INS Vikrant is India’s first indigenously designed and manufactured aircraft carrier.
  • The ship has been designed in-house by Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau and constructed by M/s Cochin Shipyard Limited.
  • The namesake Vikrant is a tribute to India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (1961). Vikrant means “courageous” in Sanskrit.
    • The first INS Vikrant was a major symbol of national pride and played an important role in several military operations including the 1971 Indo-Pak War before being decommissioned in 1997. 
    • Now India’s first homemade aircraft carrier will carry the name of her illustrious predecessor.
  • The motto of the ship is Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprdhah which is taken from Rig Veda and is translated as “I defeat those who fight against me”.
  • It will strengthen the country’s standing as a ‘Blue Water Navy’ — a maritime force with global reach and capability to operate over deep seas.
  • With it, India also joins the elite group of nations – the US, Russia, France, the UK and China – who are capable of designing and constructing aircraft carriers
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Made-in-India warship is a feather in the country’s cap, as only five or six nations have the capacity of building an aircraft carrier.

Features of INS Vikrant

  • The carrier is 262 m long, 62 m at the widest part and with a depth of 30 m minus the superstructure. There are 14 decks in all, including five in the superstructure. Around 20 aircraft can be parked in the hangar.
  • It has a top speed of around 28 knots (more than 50 kmph) and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles.
  • It features a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery(STOBAR) configuration with a ski-jump. The deck is designed to enable aircraft such as the MiG-29K to operate from the carrier. It is expected to carry an air group of up to thirty aircraft, which will include up to 24–26 fixed-wing combat aircraft, primarily the Mikoyan MiG-29K.
  • The naval variant of the HAL Tejas was rejected by the navy on Dec 2, 2016 for being overweight. Besides carrying 10 Kamov Ka-31 or Westland Sea King, The Ka-31 will fulfill the airborne early warning (AEW) role and the Sea King will provide anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.
  • Vikrant is powered by four General Electric LM2500+gas turbines on two shafts, generating over 80 megawatts (110,000 hp) of power. The gearboxes for the carriers were designed and supplied by Elecon Engineering.
  • Once operational, Vikrant is going to sport a gender-sensitive living environment and infrastructure, with provision to accommodate eight women officers. The ship will then accommodate 1,645 personnel in all, including 196 officers.
  • For now the Navy has only one carrier, INS Vikramaditya, contracted from Russia under a $2.3-billion deal and inducted into service in November 2013.
    • INS Viraat was recently retired from service after cumulatively serving the British and Indian Navies for over 50 years.
  • The first Vikrant displaced 20,000 tonnes and operated a mix of Westland Sea Kings, HAL Chetak and Sea Harrier jets. Viraat displaced 28,500 tonnes and Vikramaditya displaces 45,400 tonnes. The new Vikrant will displace 40,000 tonnes.
INS Vikrant (2013)

Significance for India

  • An aircraft carrier is a command platform epitomising ‘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.

Way Ahead & Conclusion

  • Considering current geopolitical & strategic importance along the maritime domain, India needs at least 3 carriers.
  • India’s stake in the IOR is greater than in the high Himalayas; India being the only member country of QUAD.
  • The Navy shall be organised, trained & equipped for the peacetime promotion of national security interests & prosperity of India & for prompt combat incidents to operations at Sea.

Historical facts about INS Vikrant (1961):

  • INS Vikrant, with pennant number R11, was the first-ever aircraft carrier that was operated by the Indian Navy.
  • The ship was officially laid down in 1943 and was being built for the Royal Navy as HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship) Hercules when the constitution was put on hold after World War II ended.
  • Like many other ships at the time, the under-construction HMS Hercules was put up for sale by the United Kingdom and was purchased by India in 1957.
  • The construction work was completed and the ship was commissioned in the Indian Navy as INS Vikrant in 1961.
  • The plan for building an indigenous aircraft carrier started taking shape as the old INS Vikrant neared its decommissioning in the late 1990s. 
  • This R11 is not to be confused with the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier – 1 (IAC-1) which began its construction in 2013 and went into sea trials by the end of 2021, entering into service with the Indian navy by 2022.
Other Aircraft Carriers Across the World
  • USA: USS Gerald R Ford Class
  • China: Fujian
  • United Kingdom: Queen Elizabeth Class
  • Russia: Admiral Kuznetsov
  • France: Charles De Gaulle
  • Italy: Cavour
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