The Indian Navy finally received its aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya – formerly known in Russian as Admiral Gorshkov. The 45,400 ton carrier was handed over to the Indian Navy at the Sevmash shipyard in the northern town of Severodvinsk on Saturday, November 16, 2013. 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. Originally scheduled to be delivered in 2008, the deadline was repeatedly postponed over five years. The latest delay followed the sea trials earlier this year, which unveiled boiler isolation problems that took months to repair. Much of the refurbishment was due to bring the vessel back to serviceable condition. Other aspects included removing the original Granite anti-ship missiles, clearing space for wider, longer deck fitted with the unique Ski Jump at the front section, enabling the vessel to deploy MiG-29K fighters from the relatively short runway, without relying on steam catapults.
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 warship is expected to leave for India by November 30 and reach its destination two months later, on February 2014. Arriving in India the Vikramaditya will be undergoing additional refitting that include the installation of Barak I air and missile defense systems, providing the carrier self defense against aircraft and anti-ship missile attacks. The Vikramaditya will be operating as part of a carrier task force, escorted by other warships designed as air-defense and anti-submarine warfare vessels.
Originally built as a Project 1143.4 ‘modified Kiev class’ aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov was commissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1987. Nine years later 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.
The Indian Navy has already taken delivery of some of the carrier’s MiG-29K naval fighter aircraft. The first squadron is based at the Indian Naval Air Station in Goa; the second unit will be based at INS Dega. INS Vikramaditya will be able to operate a composite air wing comprising both fighter planes and helicopters. The ship will be able to accommodate up to 16 MiG-29K fighters and 21 helicopters, including Ka-31 Helix (AEW) helicopters and HAL Dhruv utility/scout helicopters.