India will launch its first indigenously-developed aircraft carrier on 12 August, and will soon embark on the production of a bigger and mightier carrier to equip the Navy with a carrier that is deadlier and has longer operational endurance.
Defence minister A K Antony's wife Elizabeth Antony will launch the 40,000-tonne carrier, to be named Vikrant, at Cochin Shipyard on 12 August.
The warship, capable of handling 30-odd fighter aircraft, however, would join the Naval fleet only after 2018.
Its launch would catapult India to a select group of four countries capable of manufacturing and operating a 40,000 tonne carrier.
"Around 75 per cent of the IAC structure has now been erected. India will be among five countries, including the US, Russia, the UK and France, capable of building a carrier over 40,000-tonne," Vice Admiral RK Dhowan said on Thursday.
"It took us seven to eight years to design it," he said, adding it would have over 1,400-member crew.
He said the Navy is planning to have three carrier battle groups – one each for the western and eastern Naval commands while one will serve as maintenance replacement.
The Navy would have two CBGs by 2019, including the 40,000-tonne indigenous carrier INS Vikrant and the Russian built carrier INS Vikramaditya by 2018, the Navy vice chief pointed out.
The 44,570-tonne INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), now undergoing sea trials after a $2.33-billion refit in Russia, will be ready by end-2013 instead of the original August 2008 deadline.
Vice Admiral Dhowan said the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat would soldier on till 2018 due to these long delays.
The 54-year-old INS Viraat has just 11 Sea Harrier jump-jets to operate from its deck.
The 45 MiG-29K naval fighters, being procured from Russia for over $2 billion, will operate from Vikramaditya and the new indigenous carrier, he added.