Explained: Why an aircraft carrier matters, especially since it’s made in India

The Indian Navy on Thursday (July 28) took delivery of the IAC-1, the first locally built aircraft carrier from its manufacturer, Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The carrier, which after commissioning will be called ‘Vikrant’, was handed over to the Navy ahead of schedule. The commissioning is expected to take place on Independence Day.

The aircraft carrier, which successfully completed its fourth and final phase of sea trials three weeks ago, places India in an elite club of nations capable of designing and building these giant warships and powerful. “A momentous day in Indian maritime history and indigenous shipbuilding coinciding with #AzadiKaAmritMahotsav,” the Indian Navy spokesperson posted on Twitter.

Why is it important for India to have an aircraft carrier?

An aircraft carrier is one of the most powerful maritime assets for any nation, enhancing a navy’s ability to travel far from its home shores to conduct air dominance operations.

Many experts consider having an aircraft carrier essential to being considered a “blue” navy, i.e. a navy that has the ability to project a nation’s strength and power. On the high seas.

An aircraft carrier usually leads as the capital ship of a carrier strike group/battle group. As the carrier is a popular and sometimes vulnerable target, it is usually escorted in the group by destroyers, missile cruisers, frigates, submarines and supply ships.

And why is it so important that this warship was made in India?

Only five or six countries currently have the capacity to manufacture an aircraft carrier, and India has now joined this prestigious club. Navy experts and officials said India had demonstrated its capability and self-reliance to build what is considered to be one of the most advanced and complex battleships in the world.

India also had aircraft carriers earlier – but these were either built by the British or the Russians. The “INS Vikramaditya”, which was commissioned in 2013 and is currently the Navy’s only aircraft carrier, began as the Soviet-Russian warship “Admiral Gorshkov”.

India’s first two carriers, ‘INS Vikrant’ and ‘INS Viraat’, were originally the British-built ‘HMS Hercules’ and ‘HMS Hermes’. These two warships were commissioned into the Navy in 1961 and 1987 respectively.

According to the Navy, more than 76 percent of the hardware and equipment aboard the IAC-1 is indigenous. This includes 23,000 tons of steel, 2,500 km of electrical cables, 150 km of pipes and 2,000 valves, as well as a wide range of finished products, including rigid hull boats, galley equipment, air conditioning and refrigeration and steering gear.

The navy said earlier that more than 50 Indian manufacturers were directly involved in the project and that around 2,000 Indians were given direct employment aboard the IAC-1 every day. More than 40,000 others were employed indirectly.

The Navy has calculated that around 80-85% of the project cost of around Rs 23,000 crore has been reinvested into the Indian economy.

Why will this new warship be called “INS Vikrant”?

IAC-1 – as the carrier is currently codenamed – was designed by the Indian Navy’s Naval Design Directorate (DND) and built at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), a public sector shipyard under of the Navy Department.

When commissioned, she will be called “INS Vikrant”, the name that originally belonged to India’s first much-loved aircraft carrier, a source of immense national pride for several decades of service before her commissioning. out of service in 1997.

The original ‘Vikrant’, a 19,500 ton Majestic-class warship, which was acquired from the UK in 1961, played a prominent role in the 1971 war with Pakistan. India has deployed the ‘Vikrant’ to the Bay of Bengal, and its two air squadrons of Sea Hawk fighter jets and Alize surveillance jets have been used in strikes against ports, merchant ships and other targets, and to prevent Pakistani forces from escaping by sea.

Last year, as the IAC-1 embarked on its maiden sea trial, the Navy hailed the “proud and historic day for India as the reincarnated ‘Vikrant’ sails for its maiden sea trials…, in the 50th year of his illustrious predecessor’s key role in victory in the 1971 war”.

What weapons and equipment will the new “Vikrant” have?

The new warship is comparable to the Indian aircraft carrier “INS Vikramaditya”, which is a 44,500 ton ship and can carry up to 34 aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters.

The Navy previously said that once commissioned, the IAC-1 would be “the strongest maritime asset”, which will operate the Russian-made MiG-29K fighter jet and Kamov early warning helicopters. -31, both of which are already in use on the ‘Vikramaditya’.

The new ‘Vikrant’ will also operate the soon-to-be-inducted MH-60R Seahawk multirole helicopter, manufactured by US aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin, and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. based in Bengaluru.

According to the Navy, the warship will offer an “unrivaled military instrument with its ability to project air power over long distances, including air interdiction, anti-surface warfare, offensive and defensive counter-air, warfare airborne anti-submarine and airborne early warning.”

Now that India has demonstrated its capability, will it build more carriers?

Since 2015, the navy has been seeking permission to build a third aircraft carrier for the country, which if approved will become India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2). This proposed carrier, which will be named ‘INS Vishal’, is intended to be a giant 65,000 ton ship, much larger than the IAC-1 and ‘INS Vikramaditya’.

The Navy tried to convince the government of the “operational necessity” of having a third aircraft carrier. Former naval chief of staff Admiral Karambir Singh had said the navy could not remain a “tethered force”. Navy officials have argued that in order to project power, it is essential that India can venture far out into the oceans, which can best be done with an aircraft carrier.

However, for the government to be convinced of the need for the IAC-2, a “change of mindset” is needed, navy sources had earlier told The Indian Express. Former Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat had spoken out against investing in another aircraft carrier and suggested that Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands could instead be developed as assets “unsinkable” naval vessels.

But navy officials have said that to defend the vast Indian Ocean region, persistent air power is needed day and night. A third aircraft carrier will provide the navy with surge capability, which will be essential in the future, they argued.

Further, it is argued that now that India has developed the capability to build such ships, it should not be reduced. The expertise acquired by the Navy and the country over the past 60 years in the “art of maritime aviation” must not be wasted either.

While the US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers, China is also moving aggressively with its aircraft carrier program. It currently has two carriers, a third is in the works, and two more are expected to come into service within a decade.

Navy officials point out that even if India gives the green light to the IAC-2 project now, it will take more than 10 years before the warship is commissioned.

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