The indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) that will be christened INS Vikrant, after its decommissioned sibling, can carry a total of 30 aircraft (fighters and helicopters). The biggest ship made in India and carrying a price tag of over ₹20,000 crore, it has an overall length of 263 m and breadth of 63 m. The towering vessel has 15 decks and displacement (weight) of 40,000 tonnes. Propelled by four gas turbines, it is expected to touch up to a speed of 30 knots (approximately 55 kmph). Its endurance is 7,500 nautical miles at a speed of 18 knots (32 kmph), Navy sources said. The vessel can carry up to 1,500 personnel and has 2,300 compartments (in its hull), while a total of 2,100 km cables were used within.
Cochin Shipyard Limited, which built the IAC, is expected to fully hand it over to the Indian Navy in 2022. After successful completion of basin trials in November 2020, preparation is on for sea trials. The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the project in 2002, while its phase-I contract was signed in 2007. Its keel laying was in 2009, followed by launch in 2013. Its phase-II contract was signed in 2017 and the phase-III contract in 2019.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on his visit to INS Kadamba, the Navy’s premier naval base in Karwar, Karnataka, was confident that the commissioning of IAC-1 would take place in 2022. He described the indigenous aircraft carrier as a shining example of the Navy’s efforts towards being self-reliant.
Lauding the Indian Navy’s commitment to “AatmaNirbhar Bharat”, or a self-reliant Bharat, the Defence Minister disclosed that of the 48 ships and submarines that are presently being inducted into the Navy, 46 are of indigenous construction. He said the Narendra Modi government had utilised “more than two-thirds of the Navy’s modernisation budget on indigenous procurement” as part of its efforts to boost self-reliance in the Indian Navy during the last five financial years.
The government, he said, had taken several initiatives to promote self-reliance in defence manufacturing. They include allocation of 64 per cent of modernisation funds under the capital acquisition budget for 2021-22 for domestic procurement, changes in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 and an increase in the foreign direct investment limit in private companies in the defence sector to 74 per cent.
The Defence Minister conducted an aerial survey of various ongoing projects being carried out at INS Kadamba under the Navy’s “Project Seabird”. Accompanied by the Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, he received on-site briefings, including capability demonstration at the shiplift tower, and undertook a tour of the naval harbour and reviewed the marine works/ infrastructure being developed as part of “Project Seabird” Phase IIA and the operationalisation of piers.
The Indian Navy, after the decommissioning of its aircraft carrier INS Virat, has only one operational aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya. It has been pressing for another aircraft carrier, apart from INS Vikrant, but has faced resistance from government and military planners.