Modi commissions India’s first homebuilt aircraft carrier as part of defense

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a news conference during German-Indian government consultations at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo

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NEW DELHI, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned the first Indian-built aircraft carrier on Friday, underscoring his government’s efforts to boost domestic production to supply an army deployed on two contentious borders .

After 17 years of construction and trials, Modi commissioned INS Vikrant – the Navy’s second operational aircraft carrier and the largest warship ever built in India – at a state-run shipyard in the south.

“Today, India has joined the countries in the world that can manufacture such a big aircraft carrier with indigenous technology,” Modi said. “It is a symbol of indigenous potential, indigenous resources and indigenous skills.”

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Designed to accommodate a crew of around 1,600 and a fleet of 30 aircraft, the Vikrant will rely on Russian-designed MIG-29K aircraft already operating from India’s other carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which India bought from Russia.

Boeing (BA.N) and the French Dassault (AM.PA) are seeking to supply India with more than twenty jets for the Vikrant.

India is one of the world’s largest arms importers, spending $12.4 billion between 2018 and 2021, but is seeking to develop its own manufacturing capabilities as a key supplier, Russia is waging a war in Ukraine and faces sanctions. Read more

India has identified some 8,000 imported defense articles worth about 82 trillion rupees ($1.03 trillion) in 2022-23 that it wants its companies to manufacture, according to the Ministry of Defense .

India employs 1.38 million people in its armed forces, many of whom are deployed on borders with nuclear-armed rivals China and Pakistan.

“India is working hard to become self-sufficient,” Modi said, referring to the home-built Tejas light fighter and artillery. Read more

The Vikrant will significantly increase India’s maritime capabilities, allowing the navy to operate one aircraft carrier on each coast, alongside its 10 destroyers, 12 frigates and 20 corvettes.

China, which also has two operational aircraft carriers and is working on a third, has a much larger fleet of 335 ships, including about 48 destroyers, 43 frigates and 61 corvettes.

“Security issues in the Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean have long been ignored,” Modi said. “But today this area is a major defense priority for our country.”

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Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Robert Birsel

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