NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday commissioned the indigenously built 44,000-tonne "floating airfield," the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, giving a boost to India's maritime power in the Indian Ocean. The Vikrant is among the world's biggest naval vessels at a length of 262 metres (860 feet).
"Vikrant is distinguished, Vikrant is special. Vikrant is not just a warship and stands testimony to Indian skills and talent," Modi said while commissioning the Vikrant at the Cochin Shipyard Limited, Kochi. “No matter how difficult the goal is, no matter how big the challenges are, when Bharat decides, no goal is impossible to achieve.”
The commissioning of the aircraft carrier is seen as a milestone in government efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign weapons, and counter China's growing military assertiveness in the region.
In his address after commissioning the ship, Modi said that in the past, security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean had been ignored for long. "Today this area is a major defence priority of the country. That is why we are working in every direction, from increasing the budget for the Navy to increasing its capability. A strong India will pave the way for a peaceful and safe world,” he said.
India now has two operational aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, the latter named after India’s first capital ship. The Indian Navy also operated the INS Viraat which has now been decommissioned. The aircraft landing trials on board the INS Vikrant will begin in November and the ship will be ready to join duty in the middle of next year.
The INS Vikrant, costing about `20,000 crore, is the biggest ship ever built by India with a flight deck equivalent to the size of two football fields and standing 18 storeys tall. It can carry 30 fighter jets and helicopters including MiG 29Ks, Kamov, MH-60R and India’s own Advanced Light Helicopters borrowed from the Vikramaditya.
India plans to equip the carrier with more than two dozen new fighters, with the Rafale-M from France's Dassault and the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet built by Boeing currently being considered.
The Vikrant can travel to Brazil without stopping for fuel. It has a top speed of around 28 knots and cruising speed of 18 knots.The ship has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of about 1,700, including women officers. Its mess can dish out 16,000 chapatis a day.
The ship is 62 metres at its widest and 59 metres tall including the superstructure. It can generate enough power to electrify 5,000 houses. The ship displaces approximately 43,000 tonnes when fully loaded.
The ship’s passages and lobbies laid out in a straight line would stretch 12 km. It carries 2,500 km of cables, enough, as the Prime Minister noted, to stretch from Kochi to Kashi.
With Vikrant's induction, India has joined a select club of comprising the US, the UK, Russia, China and France in having the capability to design and build an aircraft carrier.
Modi said the Vikrant was an example of the Centre's thrust to making its defence sector self-reliant. "INS Vikrant is not a mere war machine but proof of India's skill and talent," he said and highlighted the indigenisation efforts behind the massive ship, including the steel that went into its making.
"Here, on the coast of Kerala, India, every Indian is witnessing the sunrise of a new future. This event being held on the INS Vikrant is a tribute to the rising spirits of India on the world horizon," the Prime Minister said. It was also a manifestation of the dream of the freedom fighters, where they envisioned a capable and strong India.
"This is a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of India in the 21st century. If the goals are distant, the journeys are long, the ocean and the challenges are endless — then India's answer is Vikrant. The incomparable Amrit of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav is Vikrant. Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant," Modi said.
"Every part of INS Vikrant has its own merits, a strength, a development journey of its own. It is a symbol of indigenous potential, indigenous resources and indigenous skills. The steel installed in its airbase is also indigenous, developed by DRDO scientists and produced by Indian companies," Modi said. Half a dozen major industrial firms and over 100 smaller businesses providing equipment and machinery, according to the defence ministry.
The Prime Minister also spoke on the Indian maritime tradition and naval capabilities. Chhatrapati Shivaji, he said, had built a navy which kept the enemies on their toes. "When the British came to India, they used to be intimidated by the power of Indian ships and trade through them. So they decided to break the back of India's maritime power,” he said.
“History is witness to how strict restrictions were imposed on Indian ships and merchants by enacting a law in the British Parliament at that time," Modi said.
He also pointed out that the Vikrant would be carrying women sailors. “When the Vikrant descends to protect our maritime zone, many women soldiers of the Navy will also be stationed there,” he said. “Just as there are no boundaries for the waves, there will be no boundaries or restrictions for the daughters of India."
“Today, INS Vikrant has filled the country with a new confidence, and has created a new confidence in the country,” Modi said....