First indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, handed over to the Navy - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 28 July 2022

First indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, handed over to the Navy

Built at an overall cost of close to Rs 20,000 crores ($2.7 billion), the carrier’s keel was laid in Feb 2009, followed by launching in Aug 2013


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 29th July 22


On a cold, blustery morning in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in March 1961, India’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, ran up the Indian Navy flag on Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Hercules, a Royal Navy aircraft carrier that was being repurposed as Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant.


Until the Vikrant was decommissioned on Jan 31, 1997, she served the Indian Navy well. During the 1971 war, INS Vikrant blockaded Bangladesh, with its Seahawk fighter aircraft wreaking carnage on Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar.


Since 1997, the Vikrant has been a floating maritime museum, moored off Mumbai. But good navies resurrect their battleships. On Thursday, at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), India’s first aircraft carrier was reborn as the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC).


For Indian warship builders and especially for CSL, the Vikrant is a triumph. Beginning with constructing 3,200-tonne, Leander-class frigates in the 1970s and progressively building heavier, 6,200-tonne Delhi-class and 7,400-tonne, Kolkata-class destroyers; Indian shipbuilding reached a pinnacle on Thursday when CSL handed over to the Navy the 45,000-tonne INS Vikrant.


“Designed by the navy's in-house Directorate of Naval Design (DND) and built by CSL, a public sector shipyard under the Ministry of Shipping (MoS), the carrier is christened after her illustrious predecessor, (INS Vikrant), India's first aircraft carrier which played a vital role in the 1971 war,” stated a Ministry of Defence (MoD) media release on Thursday. 


The 262 metre-long aircraft carrier is significantly larger and more advanced than her 19,500-tonne namesake. The resurrected INS Vikrant is powered by four gas turbines that generate 88 MegaWatts (MW) of power, working up a maximum speed of 28 knots (52 kilometres per hour). 


Built at an overall cost of close to Rs 20,000 crores, the carrier’s keel was laid in Feb 2009, followed by launching in Aug 2013.


“With an overall indigenous content of 76 per cent, IAC is a perfect example of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). With the delivery of Vikrant, India has joined a select group of nations having the niche capability to indigenously design and build an aircraft carrier,” stated the MoD.


The IAC will now be formally commissioned as INS Vikrant, bolstering India's operational profile in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and its quest for a blue water Navy that can project power to distant areas of interest.


INS Vikrant’s strike power will come from an assortment of fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Its air wing will comprise of about 30 aircraft, including MIG-29K/KUB fighter jets, Kamov-31 and MH-60R multi-role helicopters, as well as the indigenous Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) (Navy). 


The Vikrant’s fixed wing aircraft are designed to operate using the STOBAR (short take- off with barrier arrested landing) principle. This requires the aircraft to take off using a ski-jump, and to land by snagging a tail-hook on arrester wires on the carrier’s deck that drag it to a halt.


INS Vikrant’s 76 per cent indigenisation comes from sourcing large amounts of indigenous equipment and machinery from Indian industry, including from Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Keltron, Kirloskar, Larsen & Toubro, Wartsila India and over 100 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).


The requirement of indigenisation has developed an ancillary supply chain, generated employment, and ploughed back skillsets. A major spin-off has been the development in India of warship grade steel, through a partnership between the navy, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) and the Steel Authority of India (SAIL). This has made India self-sufficient in warship grade steel, enabling its use in all contemporary and future warships. 


The delivery of INS Vikrant to the Navy has been preceded by extensive harbour and sea trials between Aug 2021 and Jul 2022,which checked theship's build quality and performance, including its hull, main propulsion, auxiliary equipment, aviation facilities, weapons and sensors and its sea-keeping and manoeuvring capabilities. 


“The delivery of Vikrant today is the culmination of a long design, build and trials phase, during which both Indian Navy and CSL had to overcome unprecedented technical and logistic challenges including COVID-19 pandemic and a changed geo-political scenario,” stated the MoD.

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