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Upcoming Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya To Undergo Sea Trials This Year

August 17, 2011

Indian INS Vikramitya

After seven years of refitting to suit the Indian Navy’s specifications, the former Admiral Gorshkov Kiev-class carrier (meaning it was built in  Ukraine) embarks on harbor trials this month followed by sea trials come November. Built in the 1970s and serving from 1987 until the end of the Cold War, the Admiral Gorshkov used to be a the Soviet/Russian navy flagship until it was scrapped due to financial constraints. In the early 2000s, envisioning its future role as a force equalizer against China, India entered talks with Russia for its purchase.

After a first payment of a few hundred million dollars upon contract signing in 2004, the Admiral Gorshkov underwent an overhaul. What followed was a protracted transaction that caused the price for the Admiral Gorshkov to peak at $2.3 billion dollars due to cost overruns and repeated delays. When it finally enters service in 2012, the INS Vikramaditya will look very different from its original incarnation. Since the Admiral Gorshkov was built according to Soviet strategic requirements for a missile cruiser with a VTOL aircraft/helicopter arm it carried a larger complement of anti-ship weapons, including a dozen cruise missiles, eight CIWS systems, SAMS, and two 100mm guns. To accommodate so much weaponry, the Admiral Gorshkov’s deck is noticeably shorter compared to its western counterparts.

The INS Vikramaditya, on the other hand, has a ski jump runway and a squadron of Mig-29Ks plus Ka-31 helicopters. It’s the second aircraft carrier for the INS, replacing the aged Viraat which was supposed to be retired in 2008. Due to schedule changes, the INS Viraat remains operational until the Vikramaditya goes live.

Indian Mig29K

India’s carrier ambitions has many parallels with and differences from China’s own plans. Both countries, however, want sizable carrier arms and it comes as no surprise that by 2014 an indigenous Indian aircraft carrier is expected to enter service. (The Admiral Gorshkov/Vikramaditya was refurbished and refitted in Russia’s Sevmash shipyard.)

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