11 June 2015 4:20 PM AEST: India heightened its relevance at the international forefront as it undocked its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier yesterday. Christened INS Vikrant, the floating airstrip was entirely built by the South Asian giant at Kochin Shipyard Limited in the state of Kerala.
With the undocking of the 40,000 tonne beast, India overnight became an elite military power. It has now joined Russia, the UK, the US and France that are the only nations in the world that can design and construct aircraft carriers independently.
INS Vikrant is also a clear indication that the world’s largest democracy has beaten the world’s second largest economy in terms of their respective blue water aspirations. India is already well ahead in planning its second aircraft carrier, to be christened INS Vishal, whereas China has not yet completed its first.
There is a discontent among Chinese nationalists who view the number of aircraft carriers their country has is grossly incommensurate with its general military and economic prowess. This is evident from a recent piece on Global Mail which said, in terms of the number of aircraft carriers, “China has lagged far behind its neighbor India, not to mention developed countries”. The article lamented that China had only one aircraft (that too limited to training) against the two India already had on its waters.
The first aircraft carrier which was commissioned into the Chinese navy in September 2012 was a ‘discarded’ vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 which was later refurbished by China. The communist nation is currently building its first homegrown carrier.
As for INS Vikrant, although its construction began long before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme last year, it will still be an apt brand ambassador for ‘Made in India’ tag.
Standing as tall as a 14 storey building (IBN 2012 report), the carrier will enable the South Asian nation to launch strikes 8000 miles from its shores. Stretching 260 metres in length and 60 metres in width, by the time it is handed over to the Indian Navy in 2018, it is expected to cost India 3 billion US dollars.
The carrier has two runaways and is said to be able to launch up to 30 aircraft including fighters. However, it is still long way from being handed over to the Indian Navy; it is due to undergo a series of trials and fitments before then.
All in all, China is sure to feel the pressure hereon, a pressure to expedite its shipyards, specially because India is jamming well with the US. According to a recent Hindustan Times report, the US is offering India state-of-the-art electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), advanced arresting gear (AAG) and latest three-dimensional electronic warfare suite for the 65,000 tonne INS Vishal.