K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI: India is on the verge of emerging as one of the major warship builders. This Saturday will mark a milestone in this journey as the keel of the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is laid at the Kochi shipyard.

The ambitious project started three years ago after it began taking shape on the drawing board in 2002.

By the end of 2010, the first phase of this 40,000-tonne warship is expected to be completed with possible delivery by 2014, defence sources said.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony will witness the ceremony on Saturday.

The IAC is designed to carry 30 combat aircraft/ helicopters, and a force of 1,600 personnel on board which, in terms of height, compares to a 14-storey building.

It is designed to launch the MiG-29K and the naval variant of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft and helicopters.

At present only the United States, Russia and France have designed and built a warship of this size.