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Sai Yashwanth asked: What makes IAC Vikrant, which is expected to be commissioned in August 2022, so special?

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  • R. Vignesh replies: Aircraft carriers are complex naval platforms that act as floating military airbases through which tactical airpower can be projected on distant shores. Ever since these ships emerged in the 1920s, they swiftly replaced the battleship as flagships of a nation’s naval might. These platforms can critically augment a navy’s tactical combat potential and strategic power projection capabilities. Due to this aircraft carriers are much sought by nations that can afford to procure and operate them. Above all, a nation that possesses the technical prowess to construct such a complex platform indigenously emulates a high degree of strategic capability in naval construction. The successful construction and commissioning of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant is a major milestone in India’s naval history due to three important factors.

    First, although the Indian Navy has been operating aircraft carriers for the last six decades, these were procured from the United Kingdom (UK) and Russia. But IAC Vikrant is the first indigenously designed and constructed aircraft carrier with over 75 per cent Indian components. This puts India in an exclusive club of nations like the United States (US), the UK, Russia, China and France that possess the technical prowess to build such complex military platforms. The IAC Vikrant gives a major boost to India’s attempts to achieve self-reliance in defence. This will undoubtedly lead to the development of more indigenous assets like carrier-based fixed and rotary-winged aircraft.

    Second, with the commissioning of IAC Vikrant, the Indian Navy will be amongst the few navies that operate more than one aircraft carrier. The Indian Navy has long aimed to operate three aircraft carriers to meet India’s maritime security needs. The commissioning of IAC Vikrant has put the Indian Navy a step closer to achieving the stated aim. The experiences and technical know-how gained through the construction of IAC Vikrant would enable faster completion of the second indigenous aircraft carrier.

    Third, the possession of two aircraft carriers bestows the Indian Navy with the benefit of having at least one aircraft carrier operational at any given time. It must be recalled that during the 1965 India–Pakistan war, the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant was undergoing refitting and as a result was unable to participate in combat operations. The commissioning of IAC Vikrant is a major boost to the credibility of the Indian Navy’s all-around combat potential.

    Finally, IAC Vikrant is bound to critically bolster India’s image as an unchallenged regional power as Henry Kissinger once described aircraft carriers as 1,00,000 tons of diplomacy.

    Posted on 22 August 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.