Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lofty goals for India, and it seems to be working out perfectly.

The country has just commissioned its first home-built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, seeking to counter China’s development. The ship costs $3 billion and is about 262-meter long, and has a 62.4-meter broad flight deck. With the Vikrant, India stands along with the small number of nations to own more than one aircraft carrier in service, coming in third, after UK and China.

Modi said during the ceremony at Cochin Shipyard that India’s the kind of nation that makes the impossible possible.

“The goal may be difficult. The challenges may be big. But when India makes up its mind, no goal is impossible.”

“‘Till now, this type of aircraft carrier was made only by developed countries. Today, India by entering this league has taken one more step towards becoming a developed nation.”

Modi added that the country’s defense still focuses on providing “major security” for its citizens.

INS Vikramaditya
Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, former Gorshkov (Source: gorbatuy111/Wikimedia)

The Vikrant joins the INS Vikramaditya, a refurbished Soviet-era carrier from Russia bought by India in 2004. However, compared to the Vikramaditya, the Vikrant is smaller.

However, analysts are already praising its potential firepower. John Bradford, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the Vikrant is a symbol of India’s “long-term vision to maintaining a world-class naval force.”

“There are looming questions about the survivability of any carrier in the missile age, but major navies — including those of the US, Japan, China and the UK — are doubling down on their carrier investments. In this sense India is keeping in the race,” Bradford said.

Press also toured the inside of the ship, and the Indian Navy showed the future home for its 1,700 crew members. An officer showed the Throttle Control Room, which they called “the heart of the ship.”

“From here, the gas turbine engines can be operated, which is how this floating city moves,” Lieutenant-Commander Sai Krishnan, a senior engineering officer, said.

There are four engines on board that build up 88MW of power. In addition, the Vikrant has three galleys with coffee-vending machines, tables, chairs, and places to keep large utensils.

“If you combine these galleys, close to 600 personnel can have their meals at the same time,” an officer said.

Moreover, the ship has a 16-bed hospital with two operating theaters and intensive care units. In the hangar are two Russian-origin aircraft (MiG 29K fighter and Kamov-31 helicopter). The Vikrant can travel 7,500 nautical miles from 18 knots to 28 knots, and the steel ship’s content is equivalent to three Eiffel Towers.

“Think of this like a parking space, with a team that looks after maintenance and repairs. From here, special lifts take the aircraft to the flight deck for flying operations,” said Lieutenant-Commander Vijay Sheoran.

The Indian Navy plans to start intensive flying operations later this year. With their flight deck measuring 12,500 sqm, they hope to operate 12 fighter planes and six helicopters simultaneously.

Reshaping India’s Military Influence in the Pacific

India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat believes that as their government provides more focus and funding to military initiatives, they could become “a true Indo-Pacific power by developing maritime security infrastructure in Andaman and the Nicobar Islands,” according to Hindustan Times.

Rawat plans to expand their national security plans to include the development of a container cum replenishment facility at Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar.

“Dovetailed into the plan was creating a deep harbor in the same Campbell Bay so that Indian aircraft carrier could berth and have a faster response time to any global emergency, including natural disasters. After the commissioning of INS Vikrant, the Modi government must activate its long-drawn-out plans by overcoming the usual military bureaucratic red tape [sic].”

With the Vikrant, analysts are encouraging India’s push for more indigenous equipment purchases (versus relying on suppliers like Russia).

“Foreign acquisition should be only for top-end technologies which will take a long time for Indian R&D to develop. The future lies in foreign defense majors joining hands with Indian private players to manufacture hardware in India, which can later be used by Indian armed forces and exported to friendly nations [sic].”