On August 4, the much-awaited sea trials of Made-in-India aircraft carrier (IAC) started. The carrier would be reincarnated as INS Vikrant. The Indian Navy said that India had joined a selected group of countries with the capability to indigenously design, build and integrate a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier.
Indian Navy’s Spokesperson said in a tweet, “Proud & historic day for India as the reincarnated #Vikrant sails for her maiden sea trials today, in the 50th year of her illustrious predecessor’s key role in victory in the #1971war. Largest & most complex warship ever to be designed & built in India. Many more will follow.”
ANI quoted Navy officials saying, “With the building of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), India joins a select group of nations having niche capability to indigenously design, build & integrate a state of art Aircraft Carrier.”
With the building of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), India joins select group of nations having niche capability to indigenously design, build & integrate a state of art Aircraft Carrier: Indian Navy officials— ANI (@ANI) August 4, 2021
IAC-1 was built at the Cochin Shipyard with a total cost of around Rs.23,000 crores. It would become fully operational after flight trials of MH-60R multi-role helicopters, MiG-29K supersonic fighter and indigenously built Advanced Light helicopters (ALHs) by mid-2023.
The IAC-1 was first sanctioned by the government of India in January 2003. The basin trials of the carrier were completed in 2020, which are necessary to be done before the sea trials. At the moment, India has only one aircraft carrier, i.e. INS Vikramaditya. It was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2013 from Russia at the cost of $2.33 billion. 45 MiG 29Ks were bought at the cost of $2 billion to operate from the carrier.
During sea trials, INS Vikrant will undergo a series of rigorous tests to ensure its hull, mechanical parts and electrical equipment work perfectly under different circumstances.
The old INS Vikrant and its role in the 1971 war
INS Vikrant was the first aircraft carrier of India. It was acquired from the United Kingdom in 1961. The carrier was decommissioned in 1997. During its long and glorious service to the nation, INS Vikrant played an important role in the 1971 war.
When the 1971 war started knocking on the door, the Indian forces started to mobilize their resources to face a potential war. Initially, it was believed that INS Vikrant would not be able to join the action as the ship and aircraft were in bad shape. However, in July 1971, the squadron was ordered to move to madras with six aircraft. Vikrant had already been sailed to the east coast to avoid attack by the enemies.
Soon it was conveyed to the officers on the ship that though there were limitations in operating, INS Vikrant would form a nucleus of the Eastern Fleet. By mid-October, there were 18 Sea-Hawks on board going through intense training for the potential war.
When hostilities were declared in December, Vikrant sailed in the midnight of December 3. The Sea-Hawks provided strike force during the day. During the 1971 war, the Sea-Hawks destroyed enemy fighters, gunboats and river crafts. They also destroyed Chittagong harbour that had a warehouse and merchant ships.
Sea-Hawks also destroyed several buildings in Chittagong, including a large building close to a civil hospital that housed several Pakistani military personnel. The hospital was not harmed during the attack.
How PNS Ghazi was fooled during the 1971 war
During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi was sunk with 90 men aboard. The sinking of Ghazi played a significant role to alter the course of the war. INS Vikrant had created a Naval blockage causing the isolation of East Pakistan. Frustrated, Pakistan sent its best submarine in the inventory PNS Ghazi to “handle” Vikrant. The aim was to destroy INS Vikrant and lay mines on India’s Eastern seaboard. However, Ghazi was an ageing submarine that was facing regular equipment failures. Though there were objections against sending Ghazi, it was sailed out in November 1971.
To fool Ghazi, India had a plan. They sent INS Rajput, an aging WWII destroyer, to pretend to be INS Vikrant. It was supposed to be sent to Vishakapatnam for decommissioning but was diverted out of the Vizag port for another mission. To lure Ghazi, the Indian Navy intentionally breached security and sent a private Telegram from an alleged sailor who asked for the welfare of his seriously ill mother. The Pakistanis took the bait and started towards Vizag coast, unaware of the fact that they were late by over ten days.
On December 2, INS Rajput sailed on and returned to Vishakapatnam on December 3. It again sailed out with a pilot on board before midnight of December 3 and proceeded along a narrow entrance channel. During its journey, the Captain realized the Pakistani submarine might have to wait for them outside the harbour. He immediately ordered to stop the engines and disembarked the pilot.
As the navigational aids of Rajput were switched off, it was difficult for Ghazi to locate the carrier. As soon as it came to periscope depth to establish Rajput’s position, the carrier started to increase its speed to maximum. By the time Ghazi realized a destroyer was approaching at high speed, it was too late and had to go into a steep dive.
Though Pakistan maintains Ghazi was destroyed because of miscalculation in determining the mines they had laid down at seabed, the Indian version tells a whole other story. The Captain of Destroyer Rajput saw the disturbance of water that was caused by the sudden dive and launched two depth charges. As a result, the Ghazi was struck, leading to its hard-hit at the seabed.
The storage where mines and torpedoes were kept caught fire, and the submarine blew up. There is also a possibility that the detonation of the charges in the submarine triggered a nearby torpedo tube that led to the destruction of the submarine.