Now India joins the aircraft carrier club: New ship launched just days after Japan showed off its new destroyer
- The INS Vikrant was launched at the Kochi shipyard in southern Kerala state on Monday
- Indian Navy calls 37,000 tonne vessel its 'crowning glory' after steadily building up its naval capabilities
- On Saturday, India activated an atomic reactor for its domestically built nuclear submarine
- Comes days after Japan launched its destroyer and months after China acquired aircraft carrier
- Britain said last November that its £280m-a-year aid programme to India would be halted in 2015
By BECKY EVANS
India has launched its first home-built aircraft carrier today as it continues to bolster its maritime presence.
It joins the U.S., Russia, France and Britain in building its own carrier, which was launched at the Kochi shipyard in southern Kerala state.
However, INS Vikrant stills needs to be outfitted and extensive trials will be held in 2016 before the carrier is inducted into the Indian navy in 2018.
Britain said last November that its £280million-a-year aid programme to India would be halted in 2015, in light of the country's booming economy.
Naval milestone: Indian launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier at a shipyard in Kochi, Kerala state, on Monday
Enormous: MiG-29K, Light Combat Aircraft and Kamov 31 could fly from the 37,000 tonne carrier
Defence Minister A.K. Antony said today that India needed a strong navy to defend itself and that the country will press ahead with developing its maritime capabilities.
India has steadily built up its naval capabilities in recent years, spurred by its rivalry with neighboring China, and the aircraft carrier launch marks another maritime milestone.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony with Hillary Clinton
On Saturday, India activated an atomic reactor for its domestically built nuclear submarine.
The carrier launch comes just six days after Japan launched a new ship capable of carrying 14 helicopters at once - although Japanese officials insisted the giant vessel is an aircraft carrier and said it will not be used to launch military jets.
The launch marked the end of the first phase of construction.
The 37,000 tonne INS Vikrant will now be moved to another dock for further construction.
MiG-29K, Light Combat Aircraft and Kamov 31 will be able to fly from the vessel when it is complete.
Vice-Admiral R.K. Dhowan, the vice-chief of Naval Staff said the vessel is the 'crowning glory' of the Indian Navy's construction programme.
Maritime giant: INS Vikrant docked at the Cochin Shipyard will be more than 850ft long and have a breadth of 196ft when it is complete
Elite list: India now joins a group of just four other countries - the U.S., Russia, France and Britain - capable of building an air craft carrier
Next step: Tugboats guide the carrier as it leaves the dock of the Cochin. It will be re-docked where it will be outfitted and undergo trials
Spurred on: India's rivalry with neighbouring China has seen it build up its naval capabilities in recent years
It is more than five times larger than any other ship built in India.
Once complete the ship will be more than 850ft (260m) long, with a breadth of 196ft (60m).
The ship's production work began in November 2006. It has been designed by the Directorate of Naval Design.
Vice Admiral K. Nair, Controller Warship Production and Acquisition, said: 'We have built 6,000 to 7,000 tonnage capacity ships so far. This is 37,500 tonnes.'
He said they had encountered a number of issues during the first phase of construction.
Vice Admiral Nair said: 'Availability of steel, problems with acquisition of machines were some of them.
'Most of the equipment has gone on board while the weapons have to be inducted. It has got ski jump from where aircraft will take off.'
Commodore K. Subramaniam, Cochin Shipyard chairman and managing director, said the next phase will include laying of electric cables, ventilation systems and setting up about 2,300 compartments and will take about four years to complete.
Diesel generators and gas turbines, capable of lighting up the whole of Kochi, have already been installed.
The Indian naval milestone comes amid rising tensions in the region between China and Japan.
Warship: Japan's new destroyer 'Izumo', which has a flight deck 820ft long (250m), was unveiled in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, last week
Izumo: Japan's naval authorities insist the flat-top destroyer is not an aircraft carrier despite bearing a strong resemblance to the vessel
The Japanese launched its destroyer last week after calls in the country for beefed-up naval and air forces to enable it to enforce its territorial claims against China.
The 250m vessel, named 'Izumo', is officially labelled a destroyer, although it has a flat top which functions as a flight deck like that on an aircraft carrier.
The unveiling of the new destroyer - which has been under development since 2009 - also coincides with a dispute between Japan and China over a chain of tiny islands in the South China Sea.
The two countries conduct regular patrols of the waters around the islands, which are called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.
In November, China took a step towards achieving its ambition of becoming a leading naval power after successfully landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier for the first time.
The carrier is China's first and was bought from the Ukraine but the country is planning to build its own.
China spent ten years refurbishing the carrier, named Liaoning, after buying the unfinished former Soviet navy ship in 1998.
Britain's Royal Navy has four ships which form the core of its amphibious fleet - helicopter carriers HMS Illustrious and Ocean, and assault ships HMS Albion and Bulwark.