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

La construction de l'INS Vikrant, premier porte-avions entièrement conçu par l'Inde, aurait coûté près de 2,8 milliards de dollars

Posted Sep 2, 2022, 7:00 AMUpdated Sep 2, 2022, 10:24 a.m.

This Friday, India officially commissioned its new aircraft carrier, during a ceremony chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A source of pride since it is the first aircraft carrier entirely designed and manufactured in the country. This, even if a quarter of its components still come from abroad. “INS Vikrant is not just a war machine, but proof of India’s skill and talent. It’s special, different, ”said Narendra Modi this Friday.

Construction of the building began in 2009, but suffered numerous delays. It was originally due to be handed over in 2017, but did not undergo its first sea trials until early 2022. It was handed over to the Indian Navy for its final tests 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, which was already called INS Vikrant, was acquired from Great Britain in 1957 and was 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 flagship of the Indian Navy

262 meters long and 60 wide, the new INS Vikrant is entirely of Indian design and 76% of its components are of Indian origin. No less than 500 companies located in 18 of the 29 states and seven union territories in the country were involved. According to the local press, the construction of this ship, which began in 2009, would have cost nearly 2.8 billion dollars.

Able to accommodate a crew of 1,700 men, it has a displacement of around 45,000 tonnes. This is a little more than the French Charles-de-Gaulle, which totals 42,500, but far from Chinese competitors (more than 80,000 for the Fujian delivered in June) or American (the Gerald Ford of the US Navy totals 100,000 tons ).

2. Its name owes nothing to chance

Sign of the importance of this building for India, its name was chosen with care. Beyond the fact that Vikrant means “brave” in Sanskrit, it is not the first Indian military ship to bear this name.

It is that of another aircraft carrier, purchased from Great Britain at the end of the 1950s, and which has distinguished itself, during its thirty-six years of service, on several occasions in history. Indian. And who remained in the collective memory of the country for having played an important role during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971.

3. It’s still unclear which planes it will carry

This is undoubtedly the least glorious point, which New Delhi will not highlight. For the time being, in fact, no one knows which fighter planes will carry the INS Vikrant. The choice has still not been decided between Dassault’s Rafale-Marine and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III. But the decision should be made quickly, senior Indian officials assured last week, as New Delhi expects 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, in particular to gauge their ability to take off from a bridge that does not have a catapult. The only certainty is that the 26 aircraft that will be purchased by the navy will be “interim” for the five to seven years still necessary for the development of a twin-engine fighter on which the DRDO, the Indian armaments agency, is working.

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

Highlight of the commissioning of the building, on the occasion of the ceremony, it is a new naval flag which flies on the Vikrant. This new pavilion is described by Narendra Modi’s office as “a milestone” in Indian military history. The new flag “will turn its back on the colonial past (…) and will illustrate the rich Indian maritime past”, still assured the entourage of the Prime Minister.

In fact, the cross of Saint George, symbol of England and which appeared on the flag of the Indian navy since 1928 (except for a brief period in the early 2000s), has disappeared. Now the navy flag has in its upper left quarter the Indian flag, and in its right half a blue octagon, edged in gold which, according to the authorities, is a reference to a mythical character in Indian history: the emperor. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who, in the 17th century, created the first Hindu kingdom, the first maritime force capable of defending the coasts of southern India.

5. The Indian Navy wants the construction of a 3rd aircraft carrier

With the commissioning of INS Vikrant, India again has two aircraft carriers. But this is insufficient for the General Staff of the Indian Navy, which does not hide the fact that it would be necessary to launch the construction of a third building, larger in order to maintain a military advantage in the Indian Ocean. Particularly in the face of China which, for several years, has been increasing its efforts to acquire a fleet of aircraft carriers modern. And which is increasingly present in the region, particularly in Sri Lanka, and made a show of force during its recent maneuvers around Taiwan.

The Indian military therefore plead for the rapid construction of a new aircraft carrier, of at least 65,000 tons and this time with catapults to facilitate the flight of aircraft. Because of the know-how garnered during the construction of the INS Vikrant, only eight years would be necessary to complete this new ship, further advances the General Staff. But for the time being, these arguments have not borne fruit and no budget has been released for this.

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