NEW DELHI (CNN) — India on Friday joined the elite of the world’s naval powers by commissioning the first indigenously built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.
With the $3 billion Vikran, India will become the third country to operate a nation-building aircraft carrier in the last three years, after the UK and China, joining a small number of countries with more than one aircraft carrier or helicopter carrier in service. years.
The aircraft carrier has given the nation “new hope”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a ceremony at the Kochi shipyard in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
“The goal may be difficult. The challenges may be great. But if India sets its mind to it, no goal is impossible,” Modi said before boarding the aircraft carrier and hoisting the country’s new naval flag.
“Till now, this type of aircraft carrier was done only by developed countries. Today, India, by entering this league, has taken another step to become a developed country,” Modi said, adding that the Indo-Pacific region is still there. “High Security Priority for India”
Singapore’s S. John Bradford, a professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said India’s commitment to the ship reflected its “long-term vision of maintaining a world-class naval force”.
“It is doubtful that any aircraft carrier will survive in the missile age, but major navies including the US, Japan, China and the UK are doubling down on their investments in aircraft carriers. In this regard, India has her race,” Bradford said.
Vikrant joins the Indian Navy with INS Vikramaditya, a refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier purchased from Russia in 2004.
With a displacement of around 40,000 tonnes, it is slightly smaller than the Vikrant Vikramaditya and the aircraft carriers of the US, China and the UK, although it is larger than Japan’s.
But analysts praised its potential firepower.
When its aircraft wing becomes operational in the next few years, the Vikrant will be able to carry up to 30 MiG-29K fighter jets and helicopters, as well as self-defense, launched from its sky-ramp-style deck. systems including surface-to-air missiles.
The aircraft carrier is powered by four gas turbine engines and its maximum speed is rated at 52 km/h at a range of 13,890 km.
“India is sending a message that it has a dominant force, aircraft carriers, and therefore air power in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean,” said Ajay Shukla, a former Indian Army officer turned defense analyst.
Analysts say the new carrier and destroyers and warships will eventually make up its strike force and give India more options.
“India can influence and coordinate potential security solutions to regional problems. Having a naval task force with maritime capabilities increases India’s influence and options. It doesn’t necessarily join the multilateral response, but it can.” If you want,” said Carl Shuster, a former U.S. Navy captain who now teaches at Hawaii Pacific University.
The new aircraft carrier will allow India to play a bigger role in military exercises under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad”, an informal alliance of the US, Japan, Australia and India.
For example, US and Japanese aircraft carriers have participated in the annual Malabar exercises attended by members of the Quad.
Building the Vikrant ship was not easy for India.
The government approved its design and construction in 2003 and the foundation stone was laid in February 2009. The ship, named Vikrant, which means “brave” or “victorious” in Sanskrit, was launched in August 2013.
But then there were delays: some aspects required redesign, then problems getting aircraft equipment from Russia, then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Still, experts say India can improve its domestic shipbuilding capabilities and learn from the experience.
“Now they have the experience to build the next carrier faster and with better design,” Shuster said.
The Indian Navy is exploring the possibility of building a second national aircraft carrier. The project is still in the conceptual stage, but there is speculation that the new carrier will be 65,000 tons, similar to the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth or China’s second carrier, the Shandong.
China is considered India’s main naval competitor in the region. With two aircraft carriers in service and a more advanced third carrier launched last year, China has a numerical and technological lead over India, but analysts give India the edge in carrier operating experience.
The Indian Navy began operating aircraft carriers in 1961. Its first aircraft carrier purchased from the United Kingdom was also called Vikrant. The first Vikrant retired in 1997. INS Virat, the second aircraft carrier built by the British, served in the Indian Navy for 30 years before being retired in 2017.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is an unfinished Soviet-era ship that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998, and its third aircraft carrier, the FujianAn advanced aircraft carrier with electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch systems similar to those used by the United States.
“On paper, China’s new carriers are more capable in terms of payload and technology than the Vikrant. However, India has decades of experience in operating carrier air forces, while China is still learning,” Singaporean analyst Bradford said.
Even with that experience, it may take a year or more for Vikrant to be ready as a fighting force. This is common for aircraft carriers. America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, was launched in 2017 and is not expected to have its first deployment until later this year.
“Beer fanatic. Bacon advocate. Wannabe travel junkie. Social media practitioner. Award-winning gamer. Food lover.”