INS Vikramaditya leaves Sevmash shipyard for trials
|Builder:||Black Sea Shipyard, Mykolayiv, Ukraine|
|Cost:||$ 2.35 Billion|
|Laid down:||December 1978|
|Launched:||April 17, 1982|
|Commissioned:||October 2013 (expected)|
|Class & type:||Modified Kiev class|
|Displacement:||45,400 tons of loaded displacement|
|Length:||283 metres (928 ft) (overall)|
|Beam:||51 metres (167 ft)|
|Draught:||10.2 metres (33 ft)|
|Propulsion:||4 shaft geared steam turbines, 140,000 hp|
|Speed:||32 knots (59 km/h)|
|Range:||4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km)|
|Endurance:||13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)|
|Armament:||8 CADS-N-1 Kashtan CIWS guns|
10 helicopters, possible mix of:
INS Vikramaditya (Sanskrit: विक्रमादित्य, Vikramāditya meaning "Brave as the Sun"[note 1]) is a modified Kiev class aircraft carrier set to enter service with the Indian Navy in 2013. The ship has been renamed in honour of Vikramaditya, a legendary 1st century BC emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity.
Originally built as Admiral Gorshkov and commissioned in 1987, the carrier served with the Soviet (until the Dissolution of the Soviet Union) and Russian Navies before being decommissioned in 1996 as it was too expensive to operate on a post-Cold War budget. The carrier was purchased by India on January 20, 2004 after years of negotiations at a final price of $ 2.35 Billion. The ship is presently undergoing trials and is expected to be in commission by mid-2013.
The Admiral Gorshkov entered service in 1987, but was deactivated in 1996 because it was too expensive to operate on a post-Cold War budget. This attracted the attention of India, which was looking for a way to expand its carrier aviation capabilities. On January 20, 2004, after years of negotiations, Russia and India signed a deal for the sale of the ship. The ship was free, while India would pay US$800 million for the upgrade and refit of the ship, as well as an additional US$1 billion for the aircraft and weapons systems. The Navy looked at equipping the carrier with the E-2C Hawkeye, but decided not to. In 2009, Northrop Grumman offered the advanced E-2D Hawkeye to the Indian Navy.
The deal also includes the purchase of 12 single-seat Mikoyan MiG-29K 'Fulcrum-D' (Product 9.41) and 4 dual-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft (with an option for 14 more aircraft) at US$1 billion, 6 Kamov Ka-31 "Helix" reconnaissance and anti-submarine helicopters, torpedo tubes, missile systems, and artillery units. Facilities and procedures for training pilots and technical staff, delivery of simulators, spare parts, and establishment maintenance on Indian Navy facilities are also part of the contract.
These upgrade plans involve stripping all the weaponry and missile launcher tubes from the ship's foredeck to make way for a Short Take-Off But Assisted Recovery (STOBAR) configuration. This will convert the Gorshkov from a hybrid carrier/cruiser to a pure carrier.
The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008, which would allow the carrier to enter service just as the Indian Navy's only light carrier INS Viraat retires. The INS Viraat’s retirement has been pushed out to 2010–2012. The issue with the delays has been compounded by the ongoing cost overruns. This has resulted in high-level diplomatic exchanges to get these issues resolved. India has agreed to pay an additional US$1.2 billion for the project, more than doubling the original cost. However, ongoing delays with the Vikramaditya's delivery schedule, pushing the delivery to 2012, could mean that even this postponement of the Viraat's retirement may not come soon enough. As a result, the Indian Navy may find itself without an aircraft carrier for the first time since the 1960s. The indigenous Vikrant-class aircraft carrier has been delayed by at least a year and may be commissioned at the earliest in 2013 from the proposed 2012.
In July 2008, it was reported that Russia was increasing the total price to US$3.4 billion, blaming unexpected cost overruns on the deteriorated condition of the ship. India has paid US$400 million as of November 2008. However, the Russia even threatened to scrap the deal altogether if India did not want to pay the amount. In December 2008, government sources in India stated that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had finally decided in favour of purchasing the Admiral Gorshkov as the best option available. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) criticised that Vikramaditya would be a second-hand warship with a limited life span, which will be 60 percent costlier than a new one and there is a risk of further delay in its delivery.
The Indian Navy Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta defended the price for the warship saying: "I can't comment on the CAG. But you all are defence analysts, can you get me an aircraft carrier for less than USD two billion? If you can, I am going to sign a cheque right now". The statement from the Chief of Naval Staff possibly indicates that the final deal could be in excess of US$2 billion. When asked about CAG's finding that the Navy had not done its risk analysis before going in for the ship, he said, "I can ensure you that there is no such thing. There is no question, we have been looking at the ship since the late 90s."
On July 2, 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the carrier should be completed as soon as possible so it could be delivered to India in 2012. On December 7, 2009, Russian sources indicated that final terms had been agreed on, but no delivery date was set. On December 8, 2009, it was reported that India and Russia ended the stalemate over Gorshkov price deal by agreeing on a price of US$2.2 billion. Moscow was asking for US$2.9 billion for the aircraft carrier, nearly three times the price that was originally agreed between the two sides in 2004. On the other hand, New Delhi wanted the price to be scaled back to US$2.1 billion. On 10 March, the price of the Admiral Gorshkov was finalised at US$2.35 billion by both governments, a day ahead of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's two-day visit to India.
In April 2010, a scandal over the project emerged when it was announced that a Commodore had likely been blackmailed to influence the negotiations over the cost of the Gorshkov to India. Commodore Sukhjinder Singh had been a senior figure supervising the refit of the carrier, working as the principal director for the project. He was discharged from the service due to this incident.
The hull work was completed by 2008 and the Vikramaditya was launched on 4 December 2008. Around 99% of the structural work and almost 50% of the cabling work was completed by June 2010. Almost all of the large equipment, including engines and diesel generators, was installed. A naval MiG-29K prototype was used to test the deck systems of INS Vikramaditya in 2010.
The ship will be operated in a STOBAR configuration, with a 14.3° bow ski-jump ramp and three arrestor wires on the stern of the angled deck. This will allow the operation of MiG-29K and Sea Harrier aircraft. The maximum take-off length for the MiG-29K on the Vikramaditya will be between 160–180 metres.
An added advantage of “Admiral Gorshkov’ platform is its superstructure profile that has the potential to accommodate powerful planar or phased array radar systems with the “billboard style” antennae, which was first observed on the United States Navy's USS Long Beach, along with extensive command and control facilities to conduct an aerial campaign. The ship is also projected to be equipped with a robust combination of air defence weaponry, such as a SAM and/or a CIWS.
The hull design is based on the earlier Admiral Gorshkov, launched in 1982, but it will be larger with a full load displacement. The conversion plans for the aircraft carrier involve all the armament, including the P-500 Bazalt cruise missile launchers and the four Antey Kinzhal surface-to-air missile launchers fitted on the front, to be removed to make way for a 14.3º bow ski-jump. Two restraining stands will also be fitted, allowing combat aircraft to reach full power before making a ski jump-assisted short take-off. The ability to launch only one aircraft at a time might prove to be a hindrance. Under the modernisation plan, the 20-ton capacity elevator beside the ship's island superstructure will remain unchanged, but the aft lift will be enlarged and its lift capacity increased to 30 tons. Three arresting gears would be fitted on the aft part of the angled deck. Navigation and carrier-landing aids would be refitted to support fixed-wing STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) operations including the LAK optical-landing system.
The eight boilers are being removed and converted to take diesel fuel instead of furnace fuel oil and modern oil-water separators as well as a sewage treatment plant are being incorporated to meet international standards. She is also being fitted with six new Italian-made Wärtsilä 1.5 MW diesel generators, a Global Marine communications system, Sperry Bridgemaster navigation radar, a new telephone exchange, new data link and an IFF Mk XI system. Hotel services are being improved with new water-producing plants as well as York International refrigeration and air conditioning. A new galley is being installed together with improved domestic services and accommodation for 10 female officers.
Though the official expected life span of the ship is 20 years, experts suggest it could actually be a minimum of 30 years from the time of commissioning. On completion of the modernisation, over 70 percent of the ship and its equipment will be new and the remainder will have been refurbished.
All reconfiguration work was completed at Severodvinsk, Russia; however it was delayed by three years due to underestimation of the amount of cabling needed. An expert level discussion on technical and financial matters was held between India and Russia to sort out the issues. The MiG-29K entered operational service with India in February 2010. A compromise was finalised and India was to pay an extra undisclosed amount. Russia was to install new systems instead of repairing the old ones.
On 1 June 2010, the Times of India reported a naval officer saying: "With India earlier this year agreeing to the revised refit cost of $2.33 billion for Gorshkov, after three years of bitter wrangling since the earlier agreement inked in January 2004 had earmarked only $974 million for it, Russia has appointed a high-level apex committee to oversee the work on the carrier." The ship was to go for harbour trials by early 2011 to ensure it can be handed over to India by December 2012 or so. Dock trials began on March 1, 2011. The focus of these trials was on the main power generation units and the radio-electronic armament systems, manufactured in India. Indian Navy personnel began training on INS Vikramaditya in April, 2011. On April 19, 2012, it was announced that all internal systems were functioning, and the ship was entirely self-contained. Measurement of the ship's magnetic field and centre of gravity were performed before sea trials began.
The sea trials for INS Vikramaditya began on June 8th 2012. The ship sailed out for pre-delivery trials from the berth of the Sevmash shipyard in Russia’s northern city of Severodvinsk. These trials were to include landing and take-off of fighter jets from the deck of the carrier.
On September 17, 2012, malfunctions were detected during trials. According to official report, seven out of eight steam boilers of the propulsion machinery were out of order. Because of this, the deadline of hand over this ship to Indian Navy was postponed again until October 2013. Later investigation has determined that the cause for the engine failure was due to poor workmanship and supervision. The Gorshkov and other ships of the 1143.4 class had a history of multiple boiler failures. However Russian shipbuilders claimed that the source of the problem was the low-grade Chinese-made firebricks that were used in the boiler insulation instead of asbestos. The Navy is expected to commission the aircraft carrier in Russia and sail it back to India by October-November 2013. It is expected to join active service by December.
- Literally Vikramaditya translates as being "Sun (Aditya) of valour" (Vikram). The component "āditya" (sun) literally means "he who belongs to Aditi". It was the title of some of the most famous kings in Indian history, such as the Vikramaditya of Ujjain, famed as a noble ruler and a mighty warrior. It is also a title that was used by the Indian emperor Chandragupta II who ruled between 375-413/15 AD. This title was again used by the Hindu king Hemu who ruled Delhi from 7th October to 5th November 1556.
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