On 12 August India’s Cochin Shipyard launched the nation’s first indigenously produced aircraft carrier. The 37,500-ton Vikrant (Sanskrit for “courageous” or “victorious”) replaces a similarly named British-built carrier that was retired from Indian service in 1997. Funding for the Virkrant, which was originally called the Air Defense Ship and also known as the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier program, was first approved in 1999, and work was completed on the vessel’s immense construction facility by early 2003. Laid down in 2009 and expected to enter service by 2018, the carrier will employ a ski-jump bow to launch short-takeoff aircraft and will be fitted with arrestor wires for landings. The delivery of enough high-quality steel from Russia was reportedly a problem during construction, and perhaps as a result, this is the first Indian warship to be built entirely using domestically produced steel. Once operational, the 853-foot carrier is expected to carry around 20 Russian MiG-29K or Indian-built light fighter aircraft, plus 10 helicopters.
By Eric Wertheim