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Hours after First Nuclear Sub, India Unveils First Home-Built Aircraft Carrier

India unveiled its first domestically produced aircraft carrier on Monday, just hours after turning on the reactor of the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine. The 850-foot, 37,500-ton INS Vikrant is built of local steel, the “crowning glory” of India’s navy, a vice admiral said.

The Vikrant makes India one of five countries in the world capable of constructing an aircraft carrier from domestic materials and design. China, which continues to use its one and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, for training and propaganda purposes, is not yet one of those countries. The Liaoning was built in Ukraine in the 1980s and stripped for parts after the Soviet Union collapsed; by 2011 China had refurbished the empty hulk and recommissioned it for training purposes. Additionally, there have been sporadic leaks of images of what appears to be China’s second aircraft carrier, a homemade project.

Chinese observers, the Times of India notes with some satisfaction, are already worried: “The launch of INS Vikrant has raised hackles in China, with Chinese defence experts saying the aircraft carrier would have great significance for India as it would allow the Indian Navy to wade into the Pacific Ocean—which Beijing considers as its backyard.”

“India’s first self-made carrier, along with reinforced naval strength, will further disrupt the military balance in South Asia,” a senior Chinese naval official said.

But the Vikrant does not mean India is taking the lead in the Indo-Pacific naval arms race. It won’t be commissioned into the navy until 2018, and it won’t even be available for trials for another three years at least. But it has made a statement: India doesn’t plan to miss out on the region-wide boom in naval forces—what a Chinese admiral has called the “century of the sea.”

[Tugboats guide the indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant as it leaves the Cochin Shipyard after the launch ceremony in Kochi on August 12, 2013. Photo courtesy of Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images.]

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  • Philopoemen

    Maybe it’s an odd angle (or a very large tugboat), but that seems rather smallish for a carrier, no?

    • http://foobarista.blogspot.com foobarista

      It’s about the size and displacement of a full-size WWII aircraft carrier, and about 1/3 the size of the biggest American carriers.

      • Philopoemen

        So smaller than those new American “amphibious troop carriers” or whatever they’re called?

      • f1b0nacc1

        Pity that the aircraft that it will be launching and retrieving are considerably larger than those used in WWII

    • f1b0nacc1

      850 feet long means that it cannot handle modern high performance aircraft, which require more landing and takeoff space. In practice, his means that it will use a ‘ski-jump’, which limits the payload of its aircraft, and/or employ V/STOL aircraft (examples: the F-35B or the AV-8B) which are significantly limited in performance, payload, and range.

  • Pete

    Aircraft carriers will be almost obsolete by 2020.

    • tarentius

      Nonsense.

  • tarentius

    VM needs someone familiar with military matters. This article fails to mention that “at launch” the Vikrant is only about 75% complete AND LACKS A FLIGHT DECK! The flight deck and the rest of the needed construction and fabrication will be completed once the ship is launched. Just how one considers that an aircraft carrier without a flight deck is considered launched is beyond me. While 90% of the ship’s bodywork is of Indian design, only 50% of the propulsion is of Indian origin and 30% of the fighting capability is of Indian origin.
    And I won’t even get into the problems with the Indian LCA which, along with the MiG29k, will make up the air arm of the ship.
    There is an election coming up in India and, undoubtedly, the notoriously corrupt, inefficient, and incompetent Indian defense procurement establishment wanted to put out some good news.
    This ship, assuming it is completed on schedule won’t be ready for sea trials for four more years. There is also a big leap from having an aircraft carrier with its component air arm and actually having it operational.

    • f1b0nacc1

      The LCA isn’t all that bad an aircraft (at least they were finally smart enough to use American engines!), but the MiG-29k is absolutely awful…I mean MiG-21 caliber awful…
      The rest of the ship isn’t too terrible from what I have seen, but you are spot-on regarding the corruption and incompetence of the Indian procurement people. If you told me that they were all working for the Chinese, I would be hard pressed to prove otherwise!

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