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Aircraft Carrier Vikramaditya Handed Over To Indian Navy

November 16, 2013

Indian Navy INS Vikramaditya

After a decade of work, the Kiev-class Admiral Gorshkov missile cruiser is now an aircraft carrier.

On Saturday, November 16, Indian Defense Minister AK Antony and his entourage met with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin for the INS Vikramaditya’s official commissioning at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk, a coastal city in the Arkhangelsk Oblast (province).

The state-owned Sevmash Shipyard builds warships and submarines for the Soviet and Russian Navies.

The Vikramaditya, however, is its most ambitious creation.

This week, a detailed backgrounder on the Vikramaditya was published as a press release on the Indian Navy’s website.  The Vikramaditya sails for India at month’s end and reaches its new owners in February, 2014.

Originally a Kiev-class missile cruiser commissioned as the Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) with a flight deck to support helicopters, the Soviet Navy’s requirement for an aircraft carrier compelled an overhaul of the ship’s design. In the ensuing economic crunch of the post-Cold War, the redundant Admiral Gorshkov was shopped to India, whose first carrier the INS Vikrant, a World War 2 hulk, was decommissioned in 1997.

India’s only other carrier was the INS Viraat, which entered service in the 1980s and is the navy’s flagship.

Protracted negotiations for the Gorshkov that lay docked in Sevmash stretched from 2004 until 2009, raising its cost from $947 million to $2.3 billion.

In compliance with the Indian Navy’s specifications, a runway and 900-ton ski jump were attached on top of the Gorshkov/Vikramaditya’s hull to give it a STOBAR (short take off but assisted recovery) capability.

Also installed were new electronics and radar; new living quarters; and a new engine.

The 44,500 ton Vikramaditya is manned by 1,700 crew and can remain at sea 45 days at a time, cruising at a total speed of 30 knots.

Multiple delays kept the Vikramaditya in Sevmash. Its last sea trials were held from July to September this year. The irony is, by the time the Indian Navy commissions it, they’ll have the equivalent of the PLAN’s Liao Ning, also a Kiev-class warship.

The obvious differences between the two are found in the aircraft. The INS Vikramaditya supports Mig-29K’s and VTOL Harriers. The Liao Ning has J-15’s (Chinese-made Su-30s). Unlike the Liao Ning’s Chinese-made close-in weapons system (CIWS), the Vikramaditya supports an Israeli-made CIWS that hasn’t been installed yet.

By 2020, the INS Vikramaditya and the brand new INS Vikrant fulfills India’s need for twin carrier arms to protect its maritime interests.

From RIA Novosti:

SEVERODVINSK, November 16 (RIA Novosti) − Russia handed over to India its aircraft carrier renamed INS Vikramaditya on Saturday after a much-delayed refit and cost escalations that led to disagreements between Moscow and New Delhi.

The Indian Navy finally received its modified carrier – formerly known in Russian as Admiral Gorshkov − at the Sevmash shipyard in the northern town of Severodvinsk.

The ship was first scheduled to be delivered in 2008, but the deadline was repeatedly postponed over the period.

The official ceremony was attended Saturday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Indian Defense Minister AK Antony, who arrived in Russia on Friday for a four-day visit.

The commissioning papers were signed by deputy director of Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport Igor Sevastyanov and the ship’s Indian captain Suraj Berry.

The Vikramaditya will be escorted to India by a group of warships to secure its safe sail to its base in base in the Arabian Sea through a classified route because it does not have any air defense systems on board, according to Indian website Zee News.

The warship is expected to reach India by February 2014, Russian officials said earlier.

Renamed after a legendary Indian king, the warship was originally as a Project 1143.4 or modified Kiev class aircraft carrier commissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1987. It was decommissioned in 1996 after cuts to the Russian Navy fleet.

The refurbishments of the vessel lurched from one crisis to another since the $947 million deal was signed with Russia in 2004 for its purchase and refit.

The delays pushed up the cost of its refurbishing to $2.3 billion, sparking acrimony between Russia and India over the contract.