When Prime Minister Narendra Modi flags off INS Vikrant -- also called so far as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1) -- into the Arabian Sea on Friday, India will join a select list of countries -- the U.S.A, the U.K., Italy, France, China and Russia, with capabilities to build huge aircraft carrier ships. INS Vikrant is also the largest ever warship built in India.

This huge warship built at a cost of ₹20,000 crore by the public sector Cochin Shipyard in Kochi, has a length of 262 metre, width of 62 metre and weighs 45,000 tonne. Vikrant has 15 decks with 2,300 compartments and cabling has a length of 2,400 kilometers. Eight gas turbines with 88 megawatt capacity, good enough to power a small city, can not only power the entire ship, but also will recycle about four lakh litres of water every day. It also has a multi-speciality hospital, swimming pool, a huge kitchen and exclusive cabins for women and can house over 1,500 sailors at a time, say sources. After many sea trials, the ship was handed over to the Navy by the end of July last year.

The ship was built using an eco-system of over 550 companies (about 150 were small and medium scale suppliers) and the major suppliers were public sector units like SAIL, MIDHANI, BEL, BHEL and HAL. Private sector companies such as Tata Aerospace and Defence, L&T, Kirloskar Pneumatic, Johnson Controls, etc., also played a major role in the making of INS Vikrant, say sources.

Work order for the ship was given in 2004 and about 76% of Vikrant is made from indigenous technologies and suppliers, says Madhu S. Nair, chairman and managing director (CMD) of the 50-year-old shipyard, which has so far built over 100 ships (INS Rani Padimini was the first).

Steel for Vikrant was cut in 2005, fabrication by end-2007 and keel was laid in 2009. The aircraft carrier was originally planned to be constructed in 13 years, but availability of some technologies like making of ship grade steel from Russia delayed the plans and cost escalated from initial plans of ₹3,000 crore to ₹20,000 crore.

Now with the current capabilities and from the experience of making INS Vikrant, the Cochin Shipyard can now make aircraft carriers in about 7-8 years and can further scale up indigenisation to about 85%. A week ago, the shipyard laid keel for India's first warship of anti-submarine warfare shallow craft (ASW SWC). The shipyard is also readying to commission by 2024, a new ₹1,800-crore dry dock spread over 15 acres at Thevara in Kochi to make bigger vessels and aircraft carriers. It is also setting up an international ship repair facility spending near ₹1,000 crore on 42 acres leased from the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) and this will takeoff by December 2023.

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