Wednesday, November 20, 2013

India Receives the Former Admiral Gorshkov Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya From Russia

After several years of protracted delay and development, Russia has now handed over the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya to India. The INS Vikramaditya was formerly known as the Baku in the Soviet Union and later renamed as the Admiral Gorshkov.

The Admiral Gorshkov was the fourth and last member of the Project 1143.4 or (Modified) Kiev class of heavy aviation cruisers that carried fixed-wing aircraft such as the Yak 38. Specifications of the Baku included:
  • Length 273 m
  • Beam 32 m
  • Draught 9.4 m
  • Maximum displacement 44500 tons
Despite belonging to the same class, the Baku incorporated a number of differences compared to its sister ships, such as:
  • Replacing the 4K60 Shtorm (SA-N-3 Goblet) and 9K33 Osa (SA-N-4 Gecko) with the 3K95 Kinzhal (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) surface-to-air missiles.
  • Four additional P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) long-range supersonic anti-ship missiles for a total of 12 missiles.
  • Replacing the 76 mm guns with 100 mm guns.
  • Installation of the latest electronics and other systems.
The Baku was laid down in 1978, commissioned in 1987 and withdrawn from service in 1996. In 1994, the ship suffered an explosion in the boiler room which had to be repaired.

In 2004, Russia agreed to transfer the Admiral Gorshkov to India free or charge under the condition that India pay for its refurbishment and upgrade in Russia. At the time, the cost was estimated at around $1 billion and the ship would be ready for delivery in 2008.

Afterward, the deal underwent several years of repeated delays and negotiations because the original cost estimate by Russia proved to be insufficient. In 2009, the two countries agreed to raise the cost to $2.3 billion, although the Russians had asked for over $3 billion.

The INS Vikramaditya would suffer one final delay when in 2012 its boilers experienced problems due to insulation during trials. The ship is now expected to arrive in India sometime in 2014, a decade after the plan was first reported.

Originally a sort of hybrid ship, the INS Vikramaditya is now a dedicated Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carrier after extensive modifications, such as:
  • Installation of a ski-jump at the bow and other structural modifications to enable compatibility with MiG-29K aircraft.
  • Removal of all weapons such as the P-500 Bazalt.
  • Removal of various obsolete electronics and systems and installation of updated counterparts.
However, despite the extensive refit, the INS Vikramaditya still suffers from legacy drawbacks, such as:
  • Type and especially location of lifts for aircraft are less than optimal.
  • Absence of deflectors when aircraft take off.
  • Island takes up too much valuable deck space in comparison to overall size.
These limitations will always hinder the INS Vikramaditya relative to an aircraft carrier design that had been designed as one from the start. However, it's still one of the few true aircraft carriers around and should radically enhance the Indian Navy.

To equip its aircraft carrier and possibly future ones, India has ordered a total of 45 MiG-29K/KUB aircraft of which around half have already been delivered and up till now had been stationed on land.

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