INS Vikrant- India's 1st Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

India's 1st indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant delivered to the Navy on 28 July 2022
Image- INS Vikrant

  • INS Vikrant, also known as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1), is an aircraft carrier constructed by Cochin Shipyard in Kochi, Kerala for the Indian Navy. It is the first aircraft carrier to be built in India.
  • Work on the ship’s design began in 1999, and the keel was laid in February 2009. The carrier was floated out of its dry dock on 29 December 2011 and was launched on 12 August 2013. The basin trials were completed in December 2020, and the ship is expected to start sea trials by the end of 2021 and enter into service by end of 2022 or early 2023. The project cost has escalated, by 2014, to ₹19,341 crores. With an additional ₹3,000 crore authorized for phase III, in 2019.
  • The Indian Navy Thursday 28 July 2022 received the delivery of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier— Vikrant — joining a list of select few countries to have this capability. The carrier is built with a 76 percent indigenization component.

Design of the INS Vikrant

  • It is 262 meters (860 ft) long and 62 meters (203 ft) wide and displaces about 40,000 metric tons (39,000 long tons). It features a STOBAR configuration with a ski jump.
  • 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.
  • Vikrant has been built with a high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation, and survivability, and has been designed to accommodate an assortment of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. 
  • The ship would be capable of operating an air wing consisting of 30 aircraft comprising of MIG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, in addition to indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) (Navy).
  • Using a novel aircraft-operation mode known as STOBAR (Short Take-Off but Arrested Landing), the IAC is equipped with a ski- jump for launching aircraft, and a set of ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard. 
  • The ship has a large number of indigenous equipment and machinery, involving major industrial houses in the country viz. BEL, BHEL, GRSE, Keltron, Kirloskar, Larsen & Toubro, Wartsila India etc. as well as over 100 MSMEs. 
  • The indigenization efforts have also led to the development of ancillary industries, besides generation of employment opportunities and bolstering plow back effect on the economy, both locally as well as pan-India.
  •  A major spin-off of this is the development and production of indigenous warship-grade steel for the ship through a partnership between the Navy, DRDO, and Steel Authority of India (SAIL), which has enabled the country to become self-sufficient with respect to warship steel. 
  • Today all the warships being built in the country are being manufactured using indigenous steel. 

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
  1. During the 1971 operations for the liberation of Bangladesh, the aircraft onboard INS Vikrant was employed very successfully to strike strategic targets deep inside erstwhile East Pakistan. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Thus the new Aircraft carrier would give a strategic advantage to India in case of future conflicts.
  • Security of Sea-Lines of Communication
  1. In the event of a military conflict, a carrier is the only naval asset that can provide comprehensive protection to merchant shipping carrying strategic commodities to India. 
  2. The Indian naval chief recently expressed apprehensions about the future vulnerability of energy imports through the Strait of Hormuz due to China’s strategic “foothold” in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
  3. Like Gwadar, many other locations (“pearls”) in the Indian Ocean littoral dispersed along the arterial shipping routes bear a similar potential. 
  4. 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:
  1. 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. 
  2. The Chinese “pearls” in the Indian Ocean, besides addressing Beijing’s strategic vulnerability in terms of its energy imports, are likely to be aimed at “displacing” India’s influence in the IOR.
  3. A possible Chinese politico-military intervention in the region will seriously impinge on India’s security.
  4.  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:
  1. 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.
  2. Besides, many Indian citizens are working in these countries, and past events have amply demonstrated how their lives and property can be jeopardized. New Delhi will need to safeguard these interests in conjunction with the host nations. 
  3. 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:
  1. Integral naval aviation is essential for the defence of India’s far-flung island territories, particularly the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N) which 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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:
  1.  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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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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