India has entered the elite club of nations that can build their own aircraft carriers. India’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, has started its sea trials off the coast of Kochi on 4th August 2021.
Named after the decommissioned carrier that played a pivotal role in enforcing the blockade against Pakistan in the 1971 war, the “reincarnated-Vikrant” has made her maiden sea trial in the 50th year anniversary of the Bangladesh Liberation War. The Indian Navy, in a statement, described it as a “proud and historic day for India”. The statement said that this is the “largest and most complex warship ever to be designed and built in India.”
The 40,000-tonne warship has been built by Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL). The keel was laid in February 2009, and base trials were completed in November 2020. The estimated total cost of the project is ₹23,000 crore.
According to the Navy, this warship will operate MiG-29K fighter aircraft, Kamov-31 Air Early Warning Helicopters, the soon-to-be-inducted MH-60R multi-role helicopter and the indigenously-manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters.
The new aircraft carrier will be commissioned in August 2022 and will be the second aircraft carrier in service. The Indian Navy already has the Russian-origin carrier INS Vikramaditya in its arsenal. But the Navy has been seeking a third aircraft carrier of 65,000-tonnes to improve the nation’s defence capabilities. Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh has back the Navy’s proposal. In a press meet in December 2020, he said that a third carrier would be a necessity as India looks to become a $5 trillion economy.
China has two carriers and is building a third. According to reports, China will have 5 aircraft carriers by the end of this decade. It is against this background that INS Vikrant has begun sea trials. The induction of this warship into the Navy, will increase India’s strike capabilities and ensure that there is a strategic balance in the region.