India has commissioned its first locally built aircraft carrier, Vikrant, at a ceremony in the southern state of Kerala.
On Friday morning, the 45,000-ton Vikrant was given the prefix INS (Indian Naval Ship) at a formal commissioning ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is a moment that took 13 years in the making.
The ship, 262 m (860 ft) long and nearly 60 m (197 ft) high, is the first aircraft carrier India has designed and built on its own. It can accommodate 30 fighter jets and helicopters.
Mr. Modi called the carrier “a floating city” and the “symbol of Indian potential.”
“With INS Vikrant, India has joined the list of countries manufacturing huge aircraft carriers with indigenous technology. It has filled the country with new confidence,” he said at the inauguration ceremony.
India’s other aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, can carry more than 30 aircraft. The UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry around 40 and the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers can accommodate more than 60 aircraft.
INS Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier designed and built in India. It has been built at a cost of Rs. 20,000 crores at the Cochin shipyard. The aircraft carrier has catapulted India into a select league of countries with the national capability to build such large warships. The aircraft carrier has been built with indigenous equipment and machinery supplied by India’s leading industrial houses as well as over 100 MSMEs.
Designed by Warship Design Bureau (WDB), the in-house organization of the Indian Navy, and built by public sector company Cochin Shipyard Limited, INS Vikrant is named after its illustrious predecessor, India’s first aircraft carrier which played a vital role in the 1971 war with Pakistan. The name ‘Vikrant’ means victorious and brave.
INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier purchased by India from Russia in 2013 and was renamed after Vikramaditya, the legendary emperor. Originally built under the name Baku and commissioned in 1987, the carrier served with the Soviet Union (until the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and Russian navies before being decommissioned in 1996 because it was too costly to operate.
The deal for the aircraft carrier was signed during the previous NDA regime in 2004. It joined the Indian Navy on November 16, 2013, and was commissioned by the then-defense minister AK Antony in Russia. During commissioning at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk port in the Arctic north, the Russian flag was lowered on the ship and the Indian Navy flag was hoisted in its place. In a traditional Indian ritual, a coconut was smashed against the side of the ship.
The aircraft carrier was escorted to India on a nearly two-month voyage by a group of warships to ensure safe navigation to its base at Karwar on the Arabian Sea coast.
Inside the ship
Vikrant is currently at the government-owned Cochin Shipyard in the state of Kerala, where the ship was built and the commissioning ceremony was held.
Once in service, it will eventually be the workplace and home to 1,700 crew members.
Before the ceremony, technicians were everywhere: fixing the wiring, polishing interiors, and making sure everything was fit for commissioning.
Packed with crew members, journalists, and visitors, the ship’s interior resembled an endless complex of noisy workshops.