Gorshkov launched in water for trials, delivery by 2011: official

November 17th, 2008 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) Russian-built aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, to be commissioned in the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya, has been launched into water at the Sevmash shipyard in Arctic Russia and will be ready for delivery by 2011 after several trials, an Indian Navy official said here.Admiral Gorshkov has been launched in the water amid reports of Russia demanding an additional $2 billion for refurbishing, prior to delivery of the 45,000-ton Kiev class aircraft carrier. It is one of Russia’s largest individual military deals with India at $1.5 billion.

“The process to launch Gorshkov into water has already begun. Water is being filled in the dock at the Sevmash shipyard for the last two-three days and the process will take around eight days,” the official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The major refurbishing work of the aircraft carrier is over, what is left is fine tuning of the machinery. After being launched into the water, there will be machinery trials, basin trials and sea trials conducted on the platform which will take another one and a half years,” the official said.

The contract covers modernisation of the ship and equipping it with modern weaponry, including the MiG-29K Fulcrum aircraft and Ka-27 Helix-A and Ka-31 Helix-B anti-submarine helicopters.

The Indian Navy pilots are currently undergoing training in Russia for MiG-29K.

“The first batch of pilots is already undergoing training in Russia and the next batch will leave soon,” the official said.

The two sides have been carrying on negotiations on the price issue for over a year with India not keen to pay what it considers unreasonable escalation that has nearly doubled the cost of the aircraft carrier.

The dramatic cost escalation has threatened to cast a shadow on the long-standing defence ties between India and Russia.

The issue was also discussed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with then Russian president Vladimir Putin in November last year. India depends on Russia for over 70 percent of its arms exports.

The Admiral Gorshkov project hit the headlines in 2007 when it was announced that the Russian dockyard would be unable to meet the 2008 delivery deadline. The date of completion was pushed back to 2010.

The aircraft carrier is now to be handed over to the Indian Navy by 2011 after intensive sea trials.

The delay has forced India to undertake another refit of its aircraft carrier Viraat to keep it in service till INS Vikramaditya is inducted.

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