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India’s First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Sets Off on Maiden Trials

India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS (Indian Naval Ship) Vikrant, set out on maiden sea trials off the coast of Kochi on Wednesday.

The carrier, which will be commissioned in August next year, will join the INS Vikramaditya as India’s second aircraft carrier. The 44,500-ton Vikramaditya, a modified Kiev-class carrier of Russian origin, was commissioned by the Indian Navy in 2013.

India’s earlier aircraft carriers, one also named INS Vikrant (now decommissioned) and the INS Viraat, were originally the British-built HMS Hercules and HMS Hermes. The carriers were commissioned into the navy in 1961 and 87, respectively.

2023 Deployment

The 40,000-ton Vikrant will be fully operational around mid-2023 after aircraft complete flight trials on the vessel, The Times of India revealed.

These aircraft will include Russian MiG 29K fighters, American MH-60R multi-role helicopters, and indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters, the outlet added. Additionally, the aircraft carrier will also carry Kamov-31 Early Warning Helicopters.

“India joins a select group of nations having niche capability to indigenously design, build and integrate a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier. Reaching this milestone despite COVID-19 challenges (was) made possible by dedicated efforts of all stakeholders,” the Indian Navy said.

Statistics

The ship is 262 meters (860 feet) long and 62 meters (203 feet) wide and can carry a crew of 1,700. It cruises at 18 knots (33 kilometers per hour or 20.5 miles per hour) with a top speed of 28 knots (52 kilometers per hour or 32 miles per hour).

The Vikrant has 14 decks with a height of 59 meters (194 feet).

Designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design, the vessel was built at the state-backed Cochin Shipyard Limited.

The Indian Express reported that 79 percent of the material for the Rupees 23,000 crore (approximately $3.1 billion) ship’s construction came from local sources, generating 2,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs.

Third Carrier

The Indian Navy has also been pushing for a third aircraft carrier since 2015, which, if approved, will have a displacement of 65,000 tons. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh argued the necessity for the carrier — tentatively named the INS Vishal — last year, saying that the navy cannot remain a “tethered force.”

According to The Interpreter, a third aircraft carrier will allow the navy to operate two carriers all the time while the third undergoes maintenance, with a total air strength of more than 150 fighters.

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