A “city” ship named Vikrant: the navy is growing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has commissioned and dedicated to the nation, the first locally built 45,000 ton aircraft carrier and renamed Vikrant. In the navy, ships don’t disappear, they reincarnate, which is why this ship takes the name of its former avatar Vikrant, the first Indian aircraft carrier purchased from the United Kingdom in 1960.

The ship was designed by the Indian Navy’s Warship Design Bureau and built by Cochin Shipyard Limited, a shipyard of the Ministry of Marine and Ports. More than 75% of the content is homemade. A number of major manufacturers, both public and private, such as BHEL, BEL, SAIL, L&T MAHINDRAS, TATAS, etc. and hundreds of MSM have teamed up to build this largest warship ever built in India. Thus India joins the club of 6/7 aircraft carrier builder countries. It will house a combination of 30 aircraft, fighters, Ka 31s, MH 60Rs and advanced light helicopters. The total crew of 1700 will be dispersed in some of the 2700 compartments spread over 14 decks. The 2500 km plus wiring and power generation capable of lighting up the entire city of Kochi is an engineering marvel. The prime contractor, automated construction, modular design is powered by four LM 2500 gas turbine engines. This rightly justifies this vessel being called a “Township”.

On the indigenization front, this is a big step forward. Indian industry has stepped in to lend a hand, making the vessel largely indigenous. The construction of the ship led to around ₹19,000 of Cr being pumped back into the Indian economy in the process of manufacturing thousands of components. The shipyard is confident of building heavier ships in the future, both warships and merchant ships. There are good possibilities to build containers and bulk carriers in the future. It is understood that a larger drydock/launching slipway is already under construction. This bodes well with India’s drive to become a $5 billion economy in the near future. Merchant shipbuilding is an area that needs a big boost for India to become a formidable sea power. The Sagarmala Project covers many of these areas.

Although the ship’s construction slowed down due to insufficient funds at one point, the current government of Prime Minister Modi has provided much-needed impetus to the country’s defense preparedness by funding a number of delayed projects, the results of which are visible. Its drive towards indigenous manufacturing of war fighting platforms and equipment under ‘Atmnirbhar’ in India has accelerated over the past five years. Therefore, his commissioning of the Vikrant is very important for the country, the armed forces and him personally. The SCC also approved the development of new generation combat aircraft in the country.

The expertise gained in the construction of the aircraft carrier and the jobs generated in the process must be maintained and the decision to build the second indigenous aircraft carrier IAC II must be taken quickly. Likewise, locally built weapons and platforms, after fulfilling the commitments of the armed forces, could be exported to earn foreign exchange, which could accelerate the economy.

A look at the geopolitical scenario around the world and closer to home in the Indo-Pacific would be instructive to understand the relevance of India’s push for indigenization and the commissioning of Vikrant. With China’s rise to power, both economically and militarily, its intimate collusion with our western neighbor Pakistan are two immediate concerns. These two countries have an adversarial relationship due to land border disputes that seem unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. China has armed Pakistan to the end. It is building and supplying 8 submarines and 3/4 warships. Nuclear proliferation by China and North Korea has already made Pakistan a nuclear-weapon state. Over the past decade, China has exerted economic pressure on India’s neighborhood and firmly established its footing by taking possession of ports, bases and airfields in return for a debt trap. All these assets are dual-use, economic and military. Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Gwadar in Pakistan, Kyauk Phyu in Myanmar, islands in the Maldives, an imminent foothold in Mauritius, the Seychelles, Madagascar, countries on the east coast of Africa are some examples in the littorals of the IOR which encircle India and reduce the Indians’ maneuvering space. Marine. Under the guise of anti-piracy operations, Chinese ships and submarines are ubiquitous in the Indian Ocean with a full-fledged base in Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden. These are the challenges of India in its area of ​​operations through which cross important maritime routes of communication and trade.

Ongoing drug and human smuggling, piracy, terrorism, natural and man-made disasters, unreported illegal fishing, etc. are other non-traditional threats that exist in the IOR. At any given time, the IOR witnesses the warships of around 34 countries and the annual transit of nearly 1,30,000 merchant ships that directly ply the trade routes of India.

With the narrowing of the national power gap between the US and China and China in all likelihood overtaking the US economy, it has been observed that the Chinese attitude has become aggressive and non-committal. Its outrageous display of military might around Taiwan and its coercion in the Pacific lately are just a continuation of China’s aggressive behavior. It has already built three aircraft carriers and hypersonic missiles. The recent Russia-Ukraine conflict and China’s alliance with Russia likely add to his belligerent behavior. US unipolarity appears to be heading for collapse as China sees itself dividing the world into a bipolarity that could force smaller nations to choose sides.

In this scenario of changing world order, more disorder is likely to ensue. It is important for India to protect its economic interests by staying away from contestation. And this is possible not only by strengthening the economy, but also its hard power, especially in the Indo-Pacific, where the prosperity of the citizens resides.

This is in the context of making India a strong military power which is needed not only to protect its own economic and security interests, but also those of the IOR littorals. Vikrant is one of those important additions to the navy armor that will help India maintain peace and stability in the region and beyond. India’s current unfavorable trade balance calls for increased manufacturing and exports and hence its security. It also deters Indo-Pacific adversaries from interfering with the region’s aspirations.

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