Press Trust of India
Severodvinsk (North Russia), 15 November
The long-delayed and much awaited $2.3 billion aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya will be inducted into the Indian Navy here tomorrow, enhancing India’s maritime capabilities.
Defence Minister A K Antony, who is arriving here this evening, will be inducting the aircraft carrier into the force in the presence of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior government and naval officials of the two countries.
The aircraft carrier will be inducted in the Indian Navy at the Sevmash Shipyard, Russia’s nuclear submarine building centre.
INS Vikramaditya is a Kiev class aircraft carrier which was commissioned by Russian Navy in 1987 under the name Baku. It was later renamed as Admiral Gorshkov and last sailed in 1995 in Russia, before being offered to India.
The 44,500 ton warship with a length of 284 metres will have MiG-29K naval combat aircraft along with Kamov 31 and Kamov 28 anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopters.
The MiG 29-Ks would provide a significant boost to Indian Navy with their range of over 700 nautical miles, extendable to over 1,900 nautical miles with mid-air refuelling, and an array of weapons like anti-ship missiles, beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and guided bombs and rockets.
After almost nine years of negotiations the initial $1.5 billion contract for retrofitting the aircraft carrier and buying 16 MiG-29K, K/UB deck-based fighters was signed in 2004.
In 1998, to break the deadlock, the government of then Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had offered the aircraft carrier, currently moored in a White Sea naval base in northern Russia for free to India, provided New Delhi paid for its repairs and modernisation.
However, lack of due diligence at the time of initial assessment of work led to whopping cost escalation that stalled its repairs and modernisation.
The aircraft carrier deal had become a major irritant in bilateral relations between India and Russia. By the end of 2007, when it became clear that Russia will not deliver the radically redesigned vessel by 2008 deadline, the relations dipped to an all-time low. However, the two countries inked an additional agreement under which India agreed to pay a higher price for its refit.