India's new carrier the INS Vikramaditya finally sailed for her firstrt sea trial on June 8th RIA Novosti reports. The Vikramaditya has been undergoing an overhaul in Sevmash shipyard since 2005 and has been experiencing many delays, as hes scheduled delivery date was in 2008, and now is this coming December.
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INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, has set sail for sea trials before delivery to the Indian navy. After a delay of four years, one of Russia’s largest military contracts is planned to be completed by the end of 2012, adding a nice sum to the Russia’s arms export revenues.
Twenty years ago
The warship was docked in spring 1992 and later moved to the Sevmash shipyard in the city of Severodvinsk in northern Russia, where it was modernized for the Indian navy as the Vikramaditya.
The sea trials began late at night on June 7, giving India hope that INS Vikramaditya, named after a legendary Indian emperor famed for his wisdom, valor and magnanimity, will be delivered to the Indian navy on schedule on December 4, 2012.
The Soviet-made ocean-going warship will get a new lease on life in the Indian navy, where it will replace the Vikrant-class aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which was commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy's HMS Hermes and transferred to India in 1987.
The Admiral Gorshkov, originally named the Baku, was a Kiev-class air-capable warship laid down in 1978. The first Soviet air-capable cruisers, traditionally named after the capitals of Soviet republics, were more like anti-submarine ships than aircraft carriers. They were equipped with helicopters and the Yak-23 Forger vertical take off/landing fighter planes, which had a limited strike capability. These warships were also armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.
The Soviet Union’s first real aircraft carrier was the Admiral Kuznetsov, which was laid down in 1983 and became fully operational in 1995, after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The 1990s were a bad period for large Russian warships. The Admiral Gorshkov spent it idling, while its “younger brothers,” including the Varyag, were sold to foreign navies.
Preparations for selling the Admiral Gorshkov to India began in 1994. But India wanted a modern warship, not a rundown behemoth, and so the first agreements were hammered out only by 2000. The warship, which was ordered to go to Severodvinsk a year before that, was officially sold on January 20, 2004 and renamed INS Vikramaditya.
The partners also coordinated the financial aspects of the contract, which were later reviewed several times as upgrade costs grew.
Russia planned to spend approximately $1 billion on the aircraft carrier’s modernization. The refurbished warship was to have a catapult for assisted takeoff and a new air group consisting of 12 MiG-29K single seaters and 4 MiG-29KUB two seaters ($740 million), the Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters and the Ka-31 Helix helicopters fitted with electronic warfare radars.
At that time, the MiG-29K multirole fighter existed only as a prototype modification of the old Soviet-era carrier based aircraft. India actually commissioned the construction of a new plane, given that all its equipment was completely new. Russia now delivers these planes not only to India under new contracts worth about $1.5 billion, but also to the Russian navy.
The aircraft was the least difficult part of the contract. Under the initial contract, the Admiral Gorshkov was to be delivered to India in 2008, but it soon turned out that the cost of modernization and the amount of work involved had been seriously underestimated.
The situation was complicated by the lack of personnel. Russian shipyards are still short of skilled personnel, which is one reason why the Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea had to postpone the delivery of the Project 1135.6 frigates to India for at least a year.
While the sides haggled over additional agreements, India stopped financing the modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov. Progress was made on the cost issue only in late 2008, after President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to New Delhi.
The contract was recalculated at $2.35 billion, although Russia insisted on getting $3 billion or more, which incensed the Indian parliament and media.
INS Vikramaditya is to be delivered to India in December 2012, but it seems that problems with the warship will never end. Prosecutors are currently investigating a company that worked on the carrier without a license.
Once the Indian Navy takes delivery of the Vikramaditya she will probably be used to secure Indian energy intersts in the South China Sea, as China has begun bullying Indian vessels there. Still, it will something to keep an eye as India continues to modernize her military.
Photo Credit: Alert 5