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The impending commissioning of INS Vikrant on 02 Sep 2022 by the Prime Minister is steeped in significance. She is not just a re-incarnation of her illustrious predecessor but a multiple celebration of an India that is at the threshold of an exponential upward trajectory of self-reliance. But before that, a brief recap of her earlier avatar.

HMS Hercules, a 20,000 ton light carrier, the hull of which was laid at Vickers-Armstrong Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Britain in 1947 but was never commissioned into the Royal Navy, later found her way to India in 1957 and was commissioned as INS Vikrant in 1961. Her pennant number, R 11, will be inherited by the newborn Vikrant, come September. INS Vikrant taught the Indian Navy carrier aviation, right from helicopter operations to fixed wing fighter flying with all their associated intricacies, thrills and dangers. Alizes and Sea Hawks flew from her deck alongside Alouettes and Seakings as the Indian Navy picked up and perfected carrier  operations. Towards the end of her life, she was retrofitted with a ski-jump to operate Sea Harriers as well.

The feather in Vikrant’s cap was the successful operations over Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar during the 1971 operations in the Bay of Bengal. The ‘mother’ as she was fondly called by those who flew from her deck, was given a fond farewell in 1997 – and after much debate and deliberation for almost another 20 years whether to convert her to a museum or to scrap her, she finally headed to the ship-breakers at Darukhana.

Coming now to the brand new Vikrant. Why is her commissioning so significant?

  • Firstly, she catapults India into another league – of a handful of countries that have the capability of building an aircraft carrier. A fine tribute to our Indian Naval ship designers and a stamp of our design capability not just coming of age but acquiring a niche.
  • Secondly, she is more than twice as large as her earlier avatar – close to 45000 tons, which gives it a far more potent capability.
  • Thirdly, we have built her in very good time. From keel laying in 2009 to commissioning in 2022 is rather brisk going for a first carrier, by any standards. Much credit for this must go to Cochin Shipyard Ltd along with hundreds of other stakeholders.
  • Fourthly, she emphatically proves our capability to integrate aircraft and systems from across the world from Russian, Indian and American aircraft, Russian aviation complex, American gas turbines, Israeli weapons and radars, Indian electronic warfare equipment, gun mounts and a plethora of others.
  • Fifthly, and most importantly, she tells a compelling story of competence, capability and confidence. She is the poster-girl of an aspirational and Atmanirbhar Bharat.

 

Here’s wishing Vikrant many decades of valiant service to the nation and victory in battle always, in keeping with her lofty motto ‘Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprdah’.

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