When countries achieve epochal technological breakthroughs of national and international significance, the world takes notice. This year, tentatively in August, on the eve of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, we will witness such a breakthrough coming to fruition, when the Indian Navy (IN hereafter) commissions its first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, the IAC-1, or the Vikrant.
With IAC-1 out on its latest phase of sea trials, it is relevant to reconstruct IN’s long journey towards fulfilling its 60-year old aspiration of operating an indigenous Aircraft Carrier, and celebrate the exemplary perseverance of Naval policy-makers and leaders, both past and present, responsible for bringing us to where we are today.
The Vikrant Era
The requirement of an aircraft carrier by the Indian Navy was felt ever since her initial years. The Naval Plans Paper 1/47, conceptualised by Cmde Martin St L Nott, Cdr (later Adm) A K Chatterji and Lt Cdr (later Vice Adm) N Krishnan, was the first document that articulated the strategic requirements and game-changing tactical potential of aircraft carriers.
Based on its recommendations, major platforms such as HMS Achilles (rechristened HMIS Delhi), HMS Avenger (rechristened HMIS Magar), and three ‘R’ Class Destroyers, HMS Rotherdam, Redoubt, and Raider (rechristened HMIS Rajput, Rana, and Ranjit, respectively), were acquired from the UK.
In line with the Plans Paper’s recommendations, and given the state of the Indian economy after independence, acquiring HMS Hercules in 1957 was a financially prudent and operationally necessary move for a young 10-year old India.