India's Narendra Modi launches first locally built aircraft carrier

Aircraft carrier 'INS Vikrant' has been described as a floating city

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India has launched its first locally built aircraft carrier, which was made at a cost of $2.5 billion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier on Friday, describing it as an “exceptional symbol of self-reliant India”.

Named the INS Vikrant, the vessel is 262 metres long and 62m wide ― about the size of two football fields.

It took 13 years to build. Vikrant means courageous in Hindi.

“Today, India has entered the list of countries that can build such large warships indigenously. Vikrant has infused new confidence,” Mr Modi said at the commissioning ceremony at the Cochin Shipyard Limited in Kochi in southern Kerala.

Vikrant is large and grand, Vikrant is distinct, Vikrant is special. Vikrant is not just a warship, it is the evidence of the hard work, talent, impact and commitment of India of the 21st century,” he said.

The 'INS Vikrant' departs for a test-run in the Arabian Sea, from Kochi, India, in July. AP

With the home-built warship, India has joined the US, UK, Russia, China and France in a select group of countries capable of building such a vessel.

The warship, built with state-of-the-art automation features, can carry 30 fighter jets and helicopters.

Designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau, the INS Vikrant has been described as a "floating city".

It has 18 floors and 14 decks, with 2,300 compartments.

The ship can accommodate a crew of nearly 1,600 and also has a 16-bed hospital, two operating theatres and intensive care units.

Two Russian-made aircraft ― a MiG-29K fighter and a Kamov-31 early warning helicopter ― are parked towards the rear end, in the hangar.

The aircraft carrier has been built with 75 per cent indigenous equipment and machinery, involving major industrial houses in the country as well as over 100 micro, small and medium enterprises, boosting India’s domestic defence manufacturing.

“Every part of INS Vikrant has its own merits, a strength, its own development journey. It is a symbol of indigenous potential, indigenous resources and indigenous skills. The steel installed in its airbase is also indigenous,” Mr Modi said.

The warship is named after its predecessor INS Vikrant which played a key role during the 1971 war against Pakistan for the liberation of Bangladesh.

India has one more aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which is built on a Russian platform but defence forces have been seeking three carriers in all — one in spare besides one each for the two main naval fronts, in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal.

Mr Modi also unveiled a new naval ensign.

It replace the colonial ensign that consisted of a St George’s Cross with an Indian flag in one of the corners.

The new ensign consists of a ship anchor and India’s state emblem. The ensign was briefly changed in early 2000s but restored in 2004.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 11:55 AM