India on Monday launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, becoming the sixth nation in the world capable of designing and building such carriers. Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s wife Elizabeth launched the 37,500-tonne carrier at the Cochin Shipyard, almost four-and-a-half year after its keel was laid by the minister.

“It is a red-letter day for the entire nation and a proud moment for the country which has achieved self-reliance in the field of warship design and construction. Only a few advanced countries have capability to design and build such aircraft carriers,” he said in his speech on the occasion.

Urging the Indian industry to participate whole-heartedly in the Navy’s shipbuilding programme, the Defence Minister said over the years, the Navy has made a distinct shift from being a “buyer’s Navy to a builder’s Navy”. Antony said the Defence Ministry was ready to provide more support to Cochin Shipyard Ltd provided it worked towards adhering to the timelines.

The aircraft carrier will join the fleet by 2018. It is set to start sea trials in 2016, he said.

Shipping Minister G. K. Vasansaid emerging economies such as India are slated to be the next hubs for shipbuilding. Expecting more orders from the Navy, he said the Ministry will give top priority to the construction of naval ships .

Commodore K. Subramaniam, Chairman and Managing Director, Cochin Shipyard Ltd, said launching the aircraft carrier in just four years was a creditable achievement in view of its size and complexity.

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