- INS Vikrant (IAC-I) is the first aircraft carrier built in India and the first Vikrant-class aircraft carrier built by Cochin Shipyard (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala for the Indian Navy. The motto of the ship is Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprdhah which is taken from Rig Veda and is translated as “I defeat those who fight against me”.
- The carrier is 262 m long, 62 m at the widest part and with a depth of 30 m minus the superstructure. There are 14 decks in all, including five in the superstructure.
- It features a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery(STOBAR) configuration with a ski-jump. The deck is designed to enable aircraft such as the MiG-29K to operate from the carrier. It is expected to carry an air group of up to thirty aircraft, which will include up to 24–26 fixed-wing combat aircraft, primarily the Mikoyan MiG-29K .
- The naval variant of the HAL Tejas was rejected by the navy on Dec 2, 2016 for being overweight. Besides carrying 10 Kamov Ka-31 or Westland Sea King The Ka-31 will fulfill the airborne early warning (AEW) role and the Sea King will provide anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.
- 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.
- Once operational, Vikrant is going to sport a gender-sensitive living environment and infrastructure, with provision to accommodate eight women officers. The ship will then accommodate 1,645 personnel in all, including 196 officers.
- For now the Navy has only one carrier, INS Vikramaditya , contracted from Russia under a $2.3-billion deal and inducted into service in November 2013.INS Viraat was recently retired from service after cumulatively serving the British and Indian Navies for over 50 years. In that line, when the new INS Vikrant joins the Navy sometime after 2020, it would be the fourth aircraft carrier to defend India’s shores. Each of these carriers has grown in size, capability and sophistication adding more teeth to Navy’s power projection.
- The first Vikrant displaced 20,000 tonnes and operated a mix of Westland Sea Kings, HAL Chetak and Sea Harrier jets. Viraat displaced 28,500 tonnes andVikramaditya displaces 45,400 tonnes. The new Vikrant will displace 40,000 tonnes.
Significance for India
An aircraft carrier is a command platform epitomising ‘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
During the 1971 operations for liberation of Bangladesh, the aircraft onboard INS Vikrant was employed very successfully to strike strategic targets deep inside the erstwhile East Pakistan. 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. Thus the new Aircraft carrier would give strategic advantage to India in case of future conflicts.
- Security of Sea-Lines of Communication
In the event of a military conflict, a carrier is the only naval asset that can provide a comprehensive protection to merchant shipping carrying strategic commodities to India. The Indian naval chief recently expressed apprehensions on the future vulnerability of energy imports through the Strait of Hormuz due to China’s strategic “foothold” in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
Like Gwadar, many other locations (“pearls”) in the Indian Ocean littoral dispersed along the arterial shipping routes bear a similar potential. 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:
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. The Chinese “pearls” in the Indian Ocean, besides addressing Beijing’s strategic vulnerability in terms of its energy imports, is likely to be aimed at “displacing” India’s influence in the IOR.
A possible Chinese politico-military intervention in the region will seriously impinge on India’s security. 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:
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.
Besides, many Indian citizens are working in these countries, and past events have amply demonstrated how their lives and property can be jeopardised. New Delhi will need to safeguard these interests in conjunction with the host nations. 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:
Integral naval aviation is essential for defence of India’s far-flung island territories, particularly the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N) that 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.
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. 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:
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. 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.
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. 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.