PM to commission Vikrant, unveil Naval Ensign ‘Nishaan’ on Friday

FRIDAY morning will witness two defining moments for the Indian Navy — the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, Vikrant, will be commissioned as INS Vikrant, along with the unveiling of the new Naval Ensign ‘Nishaan’. The ceremony, at Cochin Shipyard in Kerala’s Kochi will be presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Tomorrow, 2nd September, is a landmark day for India’s efforts to become aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) in the defence sector,” PM Modi, who’s on a two-day tour of Kerala and Karnataka, tweeted Thursday. “The first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will be commissioned. The new Naval Ensign (Nishaan) will also be unveiled.”

A press statement from the Prime Minister’s Office issued on Tuesday said that in unveiling the new Naval Ensign, the PM will be “doing away with the colonial past…befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage”.

Naval Ensigns are flags that naval ships or formations bear to denote nationality. The current Indian Naval Ensign consists of a St. George’s Cross — a red cross with white background — with the Tricolor in one of its corners.

Vikrant, also known as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-1, has been designed by the Warship Design Bureau (previously known as Directorate of Naval Design), the Navy’s in-house design organisation. It was constructed by Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), a public sector shipyard under the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

It is named after India’s first aircraft carrier, which played a vital role in the 1971 war and was decommissioned in 1997, after more than 35 years in service. Vikrant will also retain its predecessor’s motto — ‘Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprudhah’, a phrase from the Rigveda meaning ‘we conquer those who fight with us in the war’, and also its pennant number, ‘R11’, too.

One fully operational, which is expected towards the end of 2023, INS Vikrant will be capable of utilising its 30-aircraft air wing, comprising the Russian-origin multirole, carrier-capable MiG-29K fighter jets, airborne early warning control helicopter Kamov-31, and the US-origin MH-60R multi-role helicopters.

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In addition, it will have two indigenously manufactured aircraft — the Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and the Naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Using a novel aircraft-operation mode known as ‘Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR)’, Vikrant is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft, and a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery on board.

Sanctioned formally in January 2003, Vikrant’s keel was laid in February 2009 and the ship was launched on August 12, 2013. The ship underwent basin trials in November 2020, sea trials between August 4, 2021 and July 10 this year. The Navy received the ship on July 28.

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