A new era has dawned for India’s naval combat capabilities. Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was commissioned into the Indian Navy at a Russian shipyard on Saturday, ending a five-year delay to the $2.33 billion project.
The 44,570-tonne carrier, which will operate supersonic MiG-29K fighters from its deck, is the largest-ever warship to be inducted by India, as also the most expensive single military platform ever bought. India’s solitary carrier till now, the 55-year-old INS Viraat, will now be a poor second at 28,000-tonne.
Earlier called Admiral Gorshkov, INS Vikramaditya was commissioned at the Sevmash Shipyard in northern Arctic at a ceremony attended by defence minister A K Antony, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior officials of the two countries. The warship, with its array of fighters, helicopters and other weapon systems, will go a long way in bolstering the Navy’s blue-water capabilities, and is already being described as “a gamechanger” in the region.
Antony said INS Vikramaditya would significantly enhance the Navy’s reach and capability, and pointed out that aircraft carriers have been part of the Indian naval force structure for decades. “The induction of Vikramaditya, with its integral MiG-29K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters, not only reinforces this central policy but also adds a new dimension to our Navy’s operational capabilities,” he said.
Antony captured the intense concerns about the protracted delay and huge cost escalation in the project, which at one point forced many within even the Navy to call for cancellation of the project, when he said that there was a time “when we thought that we will never get her”.
“The successful culmination of project truly symbolizes the time-tested special and privileged strategic partnership between our two great nations,” he said. The Russian flag on the vessel was lowered and the Indian Navy flag was raised in its place, and a coconut broken against the warship’s side. Saturday’s induction marks a decisive end to one of the most complex, and delayed, defence projects undertaken by India ever.