Staff Writer (Updated: 8/20/2015):
For years. the Indian Navy made use of two ex-British Royal Navy carriers under the local names of INS Vikrant (R11) and INS Viraat (R22) though these aging systems eventually passed their prime by the end of the 1980s and thought was given towards their formal retirement. A new indigenous initiative was announced in 1989 intended to stock the Indian Navy with a homegrown solution under the "Air Defence Ships" (ADS) project. Construction would consist of two 28,000 ton vessels centered on the launching and recovery of the British BAe Sea Harrier Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) strike aircraft. However, economic hardship struck the Indian nation and the project fell to naught.
In 1999, the economic troubles had subsided to which the indigenous carrier initiative was brought to light once more. By this time, the Sea Harrier stable had grown thin to under a dozen aircraft and a more flexible aircraft carrier solution was directed under the new "Indigenous Aircraft Carrier" initiative. The class would include the initial 40,000 ton INS Vikrant (not to be confused with the original R11) and her sister, the 65,000 ton INS Vishal. Both would be capable of launching the newer Mikoyan MiG-29K Fulcrum navy fighters and navalized helicopters as required. The Vikrant was assigned a STOBAR configuration (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) to which a "ski jump" ramp was affixed to the bow end of the ship for the required short-take off requirement. The Vishal, however, would be drastically different in scope and function, being of the CATOBAR configuration (Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) - in essence a "flat top" deck more in line with American Navy offerings. This particular configuration would now make it possible to launch heavier and dimensionally larger mission-minded fixed-wing aircraft such as Airborne Early Warning (AEW) types and give the Indian Navy a considerable edge in the South Asian-Pacific Theater - particularly against the likes of China and Pakistan.