“An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy”, Henry Kissinger once said. In this sense, India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) INS VIKRANT sailed into history last month as she was launched for sea trials, thereby catapulting India into the elite club of nations owning the niche technology to design and construct an aircraft carrier.
The 40,000-ton reincarnated INS VIKRANT, named after India’s very first aircraft carrier acquired in 1961 from the UK and decommissioned in 1997, successfully completed her five-day maiden sea voyage in south-western India. The other carrier-owning navies of the world are the USA, France, the UK, Italy, Russia, and China.
The vessel is expected to be officially commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2022, coinciding with India’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of independence. It is expected that the INS VIKRANT will be fully operational by mid-2023 after the integration of its air element, following the trials of Russian MiG-29K fighters and the indigenously produced advanced light helicopters.
Constructed with a budget of US$3.15Bn under the codename Project-71, INS VIKRANT has 76 per cent indigenous content and has been designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design (DND) and constructed by the Indian Government-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), under the Ministry of Shipping. INS VIKRANT has proven to be the shining beacon by giving a big push to India’s “Atma Nirbhar” pitch pioneered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is CSL’s and the Indian Navy’s premiere attempt at carrier design and construction.