India’s first domestically built aircraft carrier places the country among the world’s naval elites

Fujian, China’s new advanced aircraft carrier 0:47 New Delhi (CNN) — India on Friday joined the elite of the world’s naval powers by commissioning its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant.
With the $3 billion Vikrant, India will join a small number of nations with more than one aircraft carrier or helicopter carrier in service and become the third country, after the UK and China, to have commissioned a construction aircraft carrier. nationwide in the last three years. The aircraft carrier infused the nation with “new confidence,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a riotous ceremony at the Cochin shipyards in the southern Indian state of Kerala. “The goal may be difficult. The challenges may be great. But when India makes up her mind, no goal is impossible,” Modi said, before boarding the aircraft carrier and unfurling the country’s new naval flag. “Until now, this type of aircraft carrier was only done by developed countries. Today, India, by entering this league, has taken another step to become a developed nation,” Modi said, adding that the Indo-Pacific region was still being “a high security priority” for India. John Bradford, a professor at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said India’s commitment to the ship reflected its “long-term vision of maintaining a world-class naval force.” “There are doubts about the survivability of any aircraft carrier in the missile age, but major navies, including the US, Japan, China and the UK, are doubling down on their investments in aircraft carriers. In this regard, India is keeps him in the race,” Bradford said. The Vikrant is India’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. The Vikrant joins the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier purchased from Russia in 2004, in the Indian fleet. With a displacement of about 40,000 tons, the Vikrant is slightly smaller than the Vikramaditya and the aircraft carriers of the United States, China and the United Kingdom, although it is larger than that of Japan. But analysts praised its potential firepower. When its air wing becomes operational in the next few years, the Vikrant will be able to carry up to 30 aircraft, including MiG-29K fighters, which will be launched from its ski-ramp-style deck, and helicopters, as well as defensive systems, including surface-to-air missiles. The aircraft carrier is powered by four gas turbine engines and its maximum speed is estimated at 52 km/h with a range of 13,890 km. “India is sending the message that it has the power, it has the aircraft carriers and therefore the air power to dominate the far reaches of the Indian Ocean,” said Ajai Shukla, a former Indian military officer turned defense analyst. . Analysts say the new carrier, and the destroyers and frigates that will eventually form its strike group, give India further options as well. The Vikrant has a range of 13,890 kilometers. “India can influence and coordinate possible security solutions to regional problems. Having a naval task force with offshore capabilities increases India’s influence and options. It is not required to join a multilateral response, but it can.” , or establish an independent presence, if you wish,” said Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain who now teaches at Hawaii Pacific University. The new aircraft carrier will allow India to play a larger role in military exercises under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” an informal alliance of the United States, Japan, Australia and India. For example, US and Japanese aircraft carriers have participated in the annual Malabar exercises attended by Quad members. Construction of the Vikrant was delayed by redesigns and the covid-19 pandemic. Building the Vikrant has not been easy for India. The government approved its design and construction in 2003, and the keel was laid in February 2009. The ship was christened Vikrant, which means “brave” or “victorious” in Sanskrit, and launched in August 2013. But then there were delays: some features needed a redesign, then there was trouble getting aviation equipment from Russia, and then the covid-19 pandemic hit. Still, experts say India will be able to improve its domestic shipbuilding capacity and learn from the experience. “Now they have the experience to build the next carrier faster and probably with a better design,” Schuster said. The Indian Navy is studying the possibility of building a second national aircraft carrier. The project is still in the concept phase, but there has been speculation that the new carrier could be 65,000 tons in size, like the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth or China’s second carrier, the Shandong. China is considered India’s main naval competitor in the region. With two aircraft carriers in service and a much more advanced third carrier launched last year, China is ahead of India both numerically and technologically, but analysts give India the edge in carrier operating experience. The Indian Navy began operating aircraft carriers in 1961. Its first aircraft carrier, which it purchased from the United Kingdom, was also called Vikrant. The first Vikrant was retired in 1997. A second British-built aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, served in the Indian Navy for 30 years before its retirement in 2017. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a ship of the unfinished Soviet era that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998, upgraded and finally commissioned in 2012. Its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, entered service in 2019 and in June 2022 it launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, an advanced aircraft carrier with electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch systems, similar to those used by the United States. “On paper, China’s new carriers have more capabilities in terms of payload and technology than the Vikrant. However, India has decades of experience in operating carrier aviation forces, while China is still learning,” said Bradford, the Singapore analyst. Even with that experience, it could take a year or more for the Vikrant to be ready as a fighting force. This is typical of aircraft carriers. America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, was commissioned in 2017 and is not expected to have its first deployment until later this year.