Russia loans $250 mn for Gorshkov work

September 8th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) The Russian government has loaned $250 million to the Sevmash shipyard to ensure that rebuilding work on aircraft carrier Gorshkov - to be operational as INS Vikramaditya under the Indian Navy - continues without any interruption.Although the Russian government has demanded an additional $1.2 billion from India for the 45,000 tonne Gorshkov, it extended the credit to the shipyard - where the vessel has been lying for 12 years - as an interim measure till an agreement with India is finalised, according to a report in the coming issue of the India Strategic defence magazine.

The Russian government has also asked the yard to ensure that there were adequate personnel to continue work on the ship, which has been disrupted for several reasons, including lack of funds, wear and tear of assets, and a shortage of trained personnel, many of whom had left to join other companies.

Sevmash, located in arctic Russia, has now recruited workers and engineers from across Russia and at the same time abandoned some other projects, including a floating nuclear plant, to ensure that the work on the much-delayed Gorshkov project does not suffer any more.

The main hull work on the vessel is already done, and new equipment is being installed while the interior re-planning is under way. Indian officials continue to be posted at the generally wintry yard to monitor the work and to make sure that it is in accordance with the Naval Staff Requirements, or specifications drawn up by the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi.

Work would continue in full swing till November when the cold sets in, but the effort would be to maintain the pace.

Contracted for acquisition in 2004 at a cost of $750 million, inclusive of the refit and 16 Mig 29K shipboard aircraft, Gorshkov should have been delivered in 2008, but will now be ready only in 2011 for sea trials. Ka-28 ASW and Ka-31electronic surveillance helicopters and onboard sensors are part of the package.

The Russians are delivering the Mig 29Ks from 2009, however, and Indian pilots would start training on them, initially in Russia and later in India. It takes roughly five years to train a pilot from the beginning and as these aircraft would be available well in time, this would give the naval pilots ample opportunity to be fully operational on them and be ready from Day One when the aircraft carrier comes under the Indian flag.

The vessel is also being designed to connect with other aircraft with Indian forces, and the onboard electronics package has accordingly been worked out in that configuration. The exact weapons package, including the capability to fire the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missiles, will be finalised some time later though.

Notably, the sea trials will take one year, and in 2012 end or 2013, Gorshkov will really be operational as INS Vikramaditya under the Indian Navy flag.

The Russian demand for more money is beyond the original contract, but the Indian government has agreed in principle to pay more as a gesture of goodwill towards an old and reliable friend. But how much, that is still being worked out.

The India Strategic report says that the final payment could be in accordance with how the Russians have itemised the additional expenditure they are demanding.

Moscow has said the additional demand was made as the Sevmesh shipyard had miscalculated the costs in refurbishing the ship.

The Gorshkov project is also seen by many as a test of Sevmash’s ability to build aircraft carriers, and its success will be of key importance in deciding whether the shipyard will be chosen to build advanced carriers for Russia.

The project is important not only to maintain good relations with the Indian Navy but is also an exercise in reality checks now as Moscow has decided to build six large aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy in a resurgence of what was once the Soviet naval might.

The ship is named after the famous architect of the Soviet Navy during the Cold War, Admiral Sergei Georgievich Gorshkov, who was also instrumental in giving missiles to the Indian Navy, as also a nuclear submarine - INS Chakra - albeit for training purposes.

The Indian Navy has sanction for two more aircraft carriers, one of which is under construction at the Cochin shipyard. The decision for the third vessel is yet to be finalised.

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