INS Vikrant and the future of India’s maritime defense

September 02, 2022 marked a historic day for India. Hon’ble Prime Minister commissioned India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier – Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant. This accomplishment is a major milestone of the ‘Make In India’ initiative. 

The 45,000 metric tons vessel, 262 meters (~860 ft.) long and almost 60 meters (~197 ft) wide, is built at an estimated cost of INR 20,000 Cr. (~$ 2.5 Bn) – almost one-fifth the cost of a regular aircraft carrier. Built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd., it is also the biggest ship ever built in India. The aircraft carrier is capable of handling 30 aircrafts & helicopters and has a maximum design speed of ~28 knots (52 km/hr). The ship has a 16-bed hospital with two operation theatres and two ICUs. Its flight deck size is nearly 12,500 sq. m – almost as big as two-and-a-half hockey fields – and can operate 12 fighter planes and 6 helicopters at once. The ship also has gas turbines onboard that can generate up to 80 MW of power. Upon commencement of its service, INS Vikrant will be a home-cum-workplace to nearly 1,700 crew members, thus turning out to be a key asset in the Indian Navy’s arsenal from this point onwards.
This development has brought India in an elite league of powerful nations that can build an indigenous aircraft carrier by themselves. While around 24 countries have past or ongoing aircraft carrier operations, only 5 nations – USA, UK, France, Russia, and China – have the capability to build their own carriers. These nations are also the five permanent UNSC members! 

With the induction of INS Vikrant, the Indian Navy now has two aircraft carriers in its array – INS Vikramaditya being the other one. The Indian defense forces have certainly got a boost with the latest development. However, experts quote that there may still be a need of a third aircraft carrier, for which a new dock is already being built at Cochin Shipyard. While 13 years is a long time to build a ship, it is worth noting that India was doing so for the first time despite being hit by massive delays due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic. After this accomplishment, there is increased confidence in the 500 odd businesses and organizations that helped build INS Vikrant, confidence that they will be ready for much faster deliveries henceforth.

India’s soft power has also gotten a big boost with INS Vikrant’s commissioning. Senior officials & prominent representatives of UK, USA, France, Israel, and Russia have wholeheartedly congratulated India for this accomplishment. Parallelly, the future of defense trade ties with friendly nations has also brightened. Just as India-made Tejas aircraft is being explored by other nations for their arsenals, so too aircraft carriers are likely to be pondered upon.