India is likely to complete construction of its first indigenous aircraft carrier, called the Air Defense Ship, by the end of this year, says Defense Minister A.K. Antony.

“Regarding the Air Defense Ship being constructed at Cochin Shipyard Limited, 75% of hull work has been completed and [it] is expected to be launched in December 2011, after which further works will be undertaken prior to commissioning,” Antony says.

The augmentation of infrastructure at the shipyard is in progress and Indian-made hull quality steel is now available that will reduce the country’s dependence on foreign sources, Antony says.

“With the infrastructure and experience, indigenous aircraft-carrier-sized ships can be built at Cochin Shipyard. Additionally, Indian manufacturers’ warship-quality steel is now available, which will reduce dependence on foreign countries,” he says.

Antony also says that India intends to have at least two carrier task forces, with aircraft carrier warships as the centerpiece of the battle groups.

“To maintain [an] effective presence in our area of interest, [the] Indian Navy should be capable of deploying carrier task forces in two geographically separated locations,” he says.

The navy already operates the Centaur-class INS Viraat aircraft carrier. The refit and modernization work under way on the INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Russian navy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, are progressing well, the minister says.

“Consequent to signing of supplementary agreements in March 2010, the Russian side has increased the manpower and material resources considerably for the [Vikramaditya] project. A majority of the equipment and systems have been installed onboard the ship. The delivery of the ship is scheduled in December 2012,” he says.