INS Vikramaditya

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INS Vikramaditya (R33) with a Sea Harrier.jpg
INS Vikramaditya with a Sea Harrier aircraft
Career (India)
Name: INS Vikramaditya
Namesake: Vikramāditya
Builder: Black Sea Shipyard, Mykolayiv, Ukraine
Cost: $2.35 billion[1]
Commissioned: 16 November 2013[2]
Homeport: INS Kadamba, Karwar
Identification: Pennant number: R33[3]
Motto: Strike Far, Strike Sure[4]
Status: in active service, as of 2014
General characteristics
Class & type: Modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 45,400 tons of loaded displacement[5][6]
Length: 283.5 metres (930 ft) (overall)
Beam: 59.8 metres (196 ft)[7]
Draught: 10.2 metres (33 ft)
Decks: 22[8]
Installed power: 6 turbo alternators and 6 diesel alternators which generate 18 MWe[8]
Propulsion: 8 turbopressurized boilers, 4 shafts, 4 geared steam turbines, 180,000 hp[8]
Speed: in excess of 30 knots (56 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km)
13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)[9]
Endurance: 45 days[8]
Complement: 1,600 - 2,000[7]
Sensors and
processing systems:
Long range Air Surveillance Radars, LESORUB-E, Resistor-E radar complex, CCS MK II communication complex and Link II tactical data system[8]
Aircraft carried:

Maximum of 36 aircraft including:

Aviation facilities:

INS Vikramaditya (Sanskrit, Vikramāditya meaning "Brave as the Sun"[note 1]) is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier which entered into 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.

Originally built as Baku 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 she was too expensive to operate on a post-Cold War budget.[15][16][17] The carrier was purchased by India on 20 January 2004 after years of negotiations at a final price of $2.35 billion.[1] The ship successfully completed her sea trials in July 2013[18] and aviation trials in September 2013.[19] She was formally commissioned on 16 November 2013 at a ceremony held at Severodvinsk, Russia.[20][21]



Baku entered service in 1987, but was deactivated in 1996 because she 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.[22] On 20 January 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.[23] In 2009, Northrop Grumman offered the advanced E-2D Hawkeye to the Indian Navy.[24]

Baku in 1988

The deal also included the purchase of 12 single-seat Mikoyan MiG-29K 'Fulcrum-D' (Product 9.41) and four dual-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft (with an option for 14 more aircraft) at US$1 billion, six 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 were also part of the contract.

The upgrade plans involved 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,[25] this modification converted 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 retired. While Viraat's retirement had been pushed out to 2010–2012,[26] it is undergoing a final refit which will enable her to serve through 2016.[27] The issue with the delays was compounded by the ongoing cost overruns, resulting in high-level diplomatic exchanges to get these issues resolved. India finally agreed to pay an additional US$1.2 billion for the project, more than doubling the original cost.[28] However, ongoing delays with the Vikramaditya's delivery schedule, pushed the delivery to 2013. The indigenous Vikrant-class aircraft carrier was delayed by at least a year and was expected to be commissioned at the earliest in 2013 from the proposed 2012.[29]

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.[30] India has paid US$400 million as of November 2008. However, Russia even threatened to scrap the deal altogether if India did not pay the amount.[31] In December 2008, government sources in India stated that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had finally decided in favour of purchasing Admiral Gorshkov as the best option available.[32] The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) criticised the fact that Vikramaditya would be a second-hand warship with a limited life span, which would be 60% costlier than a new one, and there was a risk of further delay in its delivery.[33]

The conversion plans for the ship have seen all the armament from the foredeck removed, including the P-500 Bazalt cruise missile launchers and the four Antey Kinzhal surface-to-air missile launchers, to make way for a 14.3° bow ski-jump ramp.

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."[34]

On 2 July 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the carrier should be completed as soon as possible so she could be delivered to India in 2012.[35] On 7 December 2009, Russian sources indicated that final terms had been agreed on, but no delivery date was set.[36] On 8 December 2009, it was reported that India and Russia ended the stalemate over Admiral 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.[37][38] Both governments finalsed the price of Admiral Gorshkov at US$2.35 billion on 10 March, a day ahead of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's two-day visit to India.[1]

In April 2010, a scandal over the project emerged when it was announced that a senior Indian Navy officer had probably been blackmailed to influence the negotiations over the cost of Admiral Gorshkov to India.[39] 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 service due to this incident.[40]


Construction of the 900 tonne ski-jump in place on Vikramaditya at Sevmash Shipyard in Russia

The hull work was completed by 2008[41] and Vikramaditya was launched on 4 December 2008.[42] Around 99% of the structural work and almost 50% of the cabling work had been completed by June 2010. Almost all of the large equipment, including engines and diesel generators, was installed.[43] A naval MiG-29K prototype aircraft was used to test the deck systems of Vikramaditya in 2010.[44]

All reconfiguration work was completed at Severodvinsk, Russia; however it was delayed by three years due to underestimation of the amount of cabling needed.[45] An expert level discussion on technical and financial matters was held between India and Russia to sort out the issues.[46] 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.[47]

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 could be handed over to India by December 2012 or so.[43][48] Dock trials began on 1 March 2011. The focus of these trials was on the main power generation units and the radio-electronic armament systems, manufactured in India.[49][50] Indian Navy personnel began training on Vikramaditya in April 2011.[51] On 19 April 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.[52]


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 Vikramaditya will be between 160–180 metres.

Kamov Ka-31 "Helix" are to be based on the INS Vikramaditya in an airborne early warning role.

An added advantage of the 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.[53] The Indian Navy will hold an open competition to choose the air defense systems.[54]

The MiG-29Ks are to be based on Vikramaditya

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 involved 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 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 "short take-off but arrested recovery" (STOBAR) operations including the LAK optical-landing system.[55]

The eight boilers were removed and converted to take diesel fuel utilizing LSHSD instead of furnace fuel oil, each providing a steam capacity of 100 tonnes per hour.[56] Modern oil-water separators as well as a sewage treatment plant are being incorporated to meet international standards. She has 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. She has improved hotel services with new water-producing plants as well as York International refrigeration and air conditioning, and a new galley together with improved domestic services and accommodation for 10 female officers.[55]

The official expected life span of the ship is 40 years, and is unlikely to require any major repair work for at least a decade.[57][58] On completion of the modernisation, over 70% of the ship and her equipment will be new and the remainder will have been refurbished.[55] Sevmash Shipyard, which upgraded the carrier, will provide warranty servicing including maintenance for the next 20 years.[59]

Sea trials and commissioning[edit]

Vikramaditya in the White Sea during Sea trials in 2013

First sea trials[edit]

Russia was scheduled to hand over Vikramaditya to India on 4 December 2012,[60] with sea trials scheduled to begin on 29 May 2012.[61] The sea trials in fact began on 8 June. 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.[62][63][64]

On 17 September 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 the hand over this ship to the Indian Navy was postponed again until October 2013.[65] Later investigation has determined that the cause for the engine failure was due to poor workmanship and supervision.[66] The Gorshkov and other ships of the 1143.4 class had a history of multiple boiler failures,[67] 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.[68]

Second sea trials[edit]

On 3 July 2013, Igor Sevastyanov, deputy head of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, announced that the warship had departed for sea trials with a mix of Russian and Indian crew.[69] On 28 July 2013, it was reported that Vikramaditya had successfully completed her sea trials and was able to reach her maximum speed of 32 knots. She then proceeded to the White Sea for aviation trials,[18] which were carried out by Russia's Northern Fleet aviation and completed in September 2013.[19][70] Aircraft and helicopters flew around and over the ship to check the performance of its radar, air defence, communication and control systems, and MiG specialists praised the ski-jump ramp.[71]

The Indian Navy flag is hoisted on Vikramaditya as it is commissioned at Sevmash Shipyard in Russia.

The sea trials lasted three months, and the ship demonstrated excellent seaworthiness and manoeuvrability. In total, the ship sailed for 19,500 miles during both the trials, and 778 flights were performed from its deck by aircraft and helicopters.[71] During the second sea trial, it sailed for 8,600 miles, of which 1,700 miles were under the command of the ship's Indian captain Commodore Suraj Berry.[72]

Surveillance by NATO[edit]

When the trials were ongoing, a Norwegian P-3 Orion aircraft observed Vikramaditya. While in international waters,[73] it flew close to the ship to take photographs, and also dropped sonobuoys to record the ship's acoustic signature. The Norwegian aircraft left the area when a Russian Mig-29 arrived. A Norwegian ship was also seen to observe Vikramaditya.[73]


She was formally commissioned on 16 November 2013 at a ceremony held at Severodvinsk, Russia.[20] The ceremony was attended by Indian defence minister A.K. Antony and the Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin. The ship is expected to begin patrolling the Indian ocean by early 2014.[74]

Service history[edit]

Vikramaditya being escorted by INS Viraat and other ships of the Western Fleet in the Arabian Sea.

After commissioning, the carrier began a continuous 26-day journey of 10,212 nautical miles to its homeport at INS Kadamba, Karwar, from Severodvinsk on 27 November 2013, with a short stopover in Lisbon.[13][75] It is under the command of Commodore Suraj Berry, who is her first Indian captain.[71] Apart from her Indian crew, she also carried 177 Russian specialists from Sevmash, who will remain on board for one year, as part of the 20-year post-warranty services contract with the shipyard. During the journey, it encountered a storm in the Barents Sea and finally dropped anchor in Kola Bay, off the port of Murmansk on 1 December, which is 215 nautical miles away from Severodvinsk. Here, she linked up with her escorts, frigate INS Trikand and fleet tanker INS Deepak, was refueled and left the port on 8 December.[76] The group was escorted by the Royal Navy frigate Monmouth while passing through the English Channel,[77] and was joined by destroyer INS Delhi near Gibraltar.[13]

MiG-29Ks parked at INAS 303 air station.

The flotilla sailed in the Mediterranean sea, crossed the Suez Canal, and then the Red Sea.[72][78] On 1 January 2014, she entered the Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Aden, and was received nearly 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) away from Indian shores by a flotilla from the Indian Navy's Western fleet, led by the fleet commander Rear Admiral Anil Chawla.[79] The flotilla was composed of the aircraft carrier INS Viraat, two Delhi-class destroyers including INS Mumbai, three Talwar-class frigates, the frigate INS Godavari, and a couple of offshore patrol vessels including INS Subhadra.[13] The event was significant as the Indian Navy was operating two aircraft carriers simultaneously for the first time in 20 years.[80] After conducting basic sea exercises with the fleet,[81] Vikramaditya reached Karwar on 7 January 2014, and is expected to take at least four months to integrate into the fleet.[82][83][84]

During the trip the ship suffered a boiler malfunction and was unable to refuel due to choppy seas.[85]

Navy pilots of INAS 303 "Black Panthers" operating the MiG-29K practiced carrier operations at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in INS Hansa, Panaji.[86] The first aircraft piloted by an Indian Navy pilot landed on the carrier on 8 February 2014.[87]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 7 October to 5 November 1556.


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  6. ^ "Indian Carrier Begins Sea Trials | Defense News". Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Vikramaditya to be handed to the Indian Navy on November 16". India & Russia Report. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "'Vikramaditya' to be Commissioned on 16 Nov 13". Indian Navy. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  9. ^ PTI (1 February 2013). "Engine problems in INS Vikramaditya fixed, sea trial to start in June – Economic Times". Retrieved 27 April 2013. "an endurance of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km) at a cruising speed of 18 knots. It will have an air wing consisting of Russian-made MiG-29K jet fighter planes and Kamov Ka-31 early warning radar helicopters." 
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  73. ^ a b Vikramaditya was spied upon by NATO aircraft and ship last year but the matter was hushed up
  74. ^ [1]. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
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  • Verma, Bharat (2011). Indian Defence Review Vol. 26.3 Jul-sep 2011. Lancer Publication. ISBN 817062231X. 
  • Brien, Terry (2012). Twenty Twenty Gk Eng 2012. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 1259001199. 

External links[edit]