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India Begins to Build an Aircraft Carrier

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India Begins To Build an Aircraft Carrier



India on April 11 began an eight-year project to build an aircraft carrier in its most ambitious military program to date, officials said.


Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee launched the construction of the 37,500-ton carrier at the state-run Cochin Shipyard in the southern state of Kerala, a naval spokesman said.


The carrier will carry 30 British- and Russian-made jet fighters as well as locally designed light combat aircraft that took India more than 22 years to develop.


Federal Shipping Minister T.R. Balu said the ship-building yard would complete the project and hand over the carrier to the 137-ship Indian navy by 2012.


“The project is strategically important for our defense and so we will complete it within the target period,” Balu said.


The 252 meter-long (831 feet) carrier, which will be powered by four gas turbines and have a range of 7,500 nautical miles, will have a top speed of 28 knots. It will carry 160 officers and 1,400 sailors.


It will have two 200 meter-long runways and a landing deck for helicopters.


Several other countries, including China, the United States, France, Russia, Britain, Spain and Italy, have aircraft carriers.


The carrier was designed by the Indian navy, but Italian firm Fincantieri will help Cochin Shipyard integrate the main propulsion system and perform other specialized tasks.


The Indian Navy had two aircraft carriers but only the Viraat is in operation; the Vikrant was decommissioned in January 1997.


Last year India signed a $1.5 billion deal with Russia for a 40,000 ton aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, which is slated to join the Indian navy in 2008 after a refit.


Besides the aircraft carrier, India is building 19 other ships, including frigates and corvettes. Last month it unveiled plans to buy patrol boats.

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