India launches home-built carrier
INDIA launched its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier yesterday, a landmark moment in the US$5-billion (S$6.3-billion) project that seeks to project the country's power and check the rising influence of China.
When the INS Vikrant comes into full service in 2018, India will become the fifth nation to have designed and built its own aircraft carrier, pushing ahead of China to join an elite club that includes Britain, France, Russia and the United States.
"It's a remarkable milestone," Defence Minister A. K. Antony said as he stood in front of the giant grey hull of the ship at a ceremony in the southern city of Kochi. "It marks just a first step in a long journey but, at the same time, an important one."
The INS Vikrant, which means "courageous" or "bold" in Hindi, is a 40,000-ton vessel which will carry Russian-built MiG-29 fighter jets and other light aircraft.
The ship, which will be tested over the next four years, is a major advance for the country, analysts say, though, overall, India lags far behind China in defence capabilities.
"It is going to be deployed in the Indian Ocean region where the world's commercial and economic interests coalesce. India's capability is very much with China in mind," Mr Rahul Bedi, a defence expert with IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, said.
INS Vikrant is two years behind schedule after India experienced problems in sourcing specialised steel from Russia, and delays with crucial equipment.