The induction brings the curtains down on a 13-year saga of carrier reconstruction marred by recurrent time slippages, cost overruns and edgy political negotiations. With this, the Navy has inched closer to its dream of concurrently operating three carrier battle groups.
As Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi said, it would bridge the time-gap between the retirement of the ageing carrier INS Viraat and the under-construction indigenous carrier INS Vikrant. As part of its integral fleet, Vikramaditya will have the MiG-29 K fighter, of which India has already inducted 20 of the 45 on order, besides Kamov-31 helicopters. The carrier can also support operations of Sea Harrier jump jets, Chetak search and rescue helicopters, Seaking anti-submarine warfare helicopters and the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, which will conduct night-flying operations from its deck at its homeport at Karwar in Karnataka, where it will reach in January.
Mr. Antony said India’s relationship with Russia remained a matter of highest priority for mutual benefits and as a factor of global peace and stability. Describing the carrier as adding a whole new dimension to the operational capabilities of the Navy, he said the event realised the vision of the Navy’s capability-based transformation, conceived over a decade ago.
“India’s economic development is dependent on the seas, and safeguarding the nation’s maritime interests is central to our national policy. Aircraft carriers have been part of the Indian Navy’s force structure since our independence and have effectively served the country over the past five decades or so,” he said. Mr. Rogozin saw the carrier as symbolising close ties between both nations.
Admiral Joshi viewed the induction as catalysing the India-Russia strategic partnership to greater heights. On the need for a three-carrier Navy, he said that given India’s vast seascape, far-flung islands, regional geopolitics and the dynamic maritime security environment, aircraft carriers were necessary to implement India’s strategic interest in the region. The transformation of a Heavy Aircraft Carrier Cruiser into a modern short-take off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) air defence platform was challenging for both nations, he said.
On Saturday morning, the dignitaries were given a ceremonial Guard of Honour by Indian and Russian naval personnel. The Russian flag on the modernised vessel was lowered. Soon after Captain (Commodore) Suraj Berry, Vikramaditya’s commanding officer, read out the commissioning order, the Indian tricolour was hoisted on the vessel with a 34-men colour guard led by Lieutenant Commander H. Mehta in attendance. The naval band rendered the national anthem.
The ship will set sail for India by November-end or early December.