New Delhi (CNN) India joined an elite league of global naval powers on Friday, when it commissioned its first nationally-built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. aircraft carrier in service and becomes the third country, after the United Kingdom and China, to have commissioned a domestically built aircraft carrier in the past three years.
The carrier has filled the nation with ‘new confidence’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a ceremony marked by fanfare at the Cochin shipyard in the southern Indian state of Kerala. .
“The goal may be difficult. The challenges can be great. But when India makes up its mind, no goal is impossible,” Modi said, before boarding the aircraft carrier and unfurling the country’s new naval flag.
“Until now, this type of aircraft carrier was only manufactured by developed countries. Today, by entering this league, India has taken a step closer to the status of a developed nation,” said said Modi, adding that the Indo-Pacific region remained “a major security priority” for India.
John Bradford, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said India’s commitment to the ship reflected its “long-term vision to maintain a world-class naval force”.
“There are looming questions about the survivability of any aircraft carrier in the missile age, but major navies – including those of the United States, Japan, China and the United Kingdom – are doubling down their investments in aircraft carriers. In that sense, India remains in the game,” Bradford said.
Vikrant joins carrier INS Vikramaditya, a refurbished Soviet-era carrier purchased from Russia in 2004, in the Indian fleet. With a displacement of around 40,000 tons, the Vikrant is slightly smaller than the Vikramaditya and carriers from the United States, China and the United Kingdom. it is larger than that of Japan. But analysts have praised its potential firepower.
When its air wing becomes fully operational over the next few years, Vikrant will carry up to 30 aircraft, including MiG-29K fighter jets – which will be launched from its ski ramp-style deck – and helicopters as well as systems defensive systems, including surface to air-missile systems.
Powered by four gas turbine engines, its top speed is estimated at 32 mph (52 km/h) with a range of 8,600 miles (13,890 kilometres).
“India is sending the message that it has the power, it has the aircraft carriers and therefore the air power to dominate the far reaches of the Indian Ocean,” said Ajai Shukla, a former Indian military officer turned analyst of the defense.
Analysts said the new carrier, and the destroyers and frigates that will eventually make up its strike group, also provide India with more distant options. The Vikrant has a range of 8,600 miles (13,890 kilometers).
“India can both influence and coordinate potential security solutions to regional problems. The contribution of a high seas capability naval task group adds to India’s influence and options. It does not need to join a multilateral response but can do so, or establish a separate independent presence, if it wishes,” said Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain who now teaches at the Pacific University of Hawaii.
The new carrier will allow India to play a bigger role in military exercises through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad”, an informal alliance of the United States, Japan, Australia and India. For example, the American and Japanese carriers have participated in the annual Malabar exercises in which members of the Quad participate.