The rebuilt Russian Kiev Class aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya completed the last of her tests on engineering, propulsion and flight operations systems September 20 and is now ready for official handover to the Indian Navy under her new name, INS Vikramaditya which will take place in an official ceremony in November 2013 at Russia’s Sevmash Shipyard.
The aircraft carrier “Vikramaditya” (formerly “Admiral Gorshkov”), which the Russian side intends to give the Indian Navy on November 15, will arrive in Mumbai in February next year, said Deputy General Director of Rosoboronexport Viktor Komardin during the first naval show NAMEXPO-2013.
“Fifteenth of November we deliver a ship, and then it goes to India. <…> We expect that by February, “Vikramaditya” will arrive at the port of Mumbai,” he said, noting that on the way to India aircraft carrier should go to 14 ports.
Gorshkov as built was a hybrid aircraft carrier/heavy missile cruiser with massive SSN-19/P-700 Shipwreck anti-ship missile launchers affixed to her bow rather than flight deck space. The flight deck of Gorshkov was patterned after the angled landing deck of conventional aircraft carriers where Soviet KA-25/27 Kamov helicopters and YAK-38M Forger VTOL jet fighters very similar in appearance to the British Harrier jump jet were launched and recovered.
The Indian Navy requirements however, were for a conventional ‘through deck’ aircraft carrier where the entire top deck was utilized for launch and recovery of supersonic jets. Part of the contract with Russia was for Gorshkov to be rebuilt according to Indian Navy design modifications. The forward missiles and gun mounts were removed and a ‘ski jump’ installed to give the ship a STOBAR capability.
After nine years India is finally to take delivery of the ship. The negotiation of the sale, redesign and reconstruction of the ship account for most of the delay, however there were engineering issues with the ship ranging from a miss-estimation of needed internal cabling and in Jun 2012 by a major engineering problem surrounding ‘earth-friendly’ materials used to insulate the ships boilers, causing another year of delay.
Vikramaditya is now ready however and is to be officially handed over in Nov 2013 at the Russian Sevmash Shipyard to her Indian Navy crew. Her air group is expected to consist of 16 MIG-29K Fulcrum fighters as well as KA-28 anti-submarine (ASW) helicopters and KA-31 airborne early warning (AEW) helicopters. Thought had been given to equipping the carrier with the US Navy E-2 Hawkeye for airborne early warning; however that would have required catapults in place of the ski-jump configuration.
The carrier does retain the originally designed ‘island’ configuration and with space for further development of more modern command & control capabilities which would put Vikramaditya on a par with comparable sized carriers of France and Britain’s forthcoming Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.
Soon to follow entrance into service will be the INS Vikrant, designed and built entirely in India and similar in size and air group to INS Vikramaditya. Each ship will be the core of a battle group defending each of India’s two coasts. In wartime, the ships would defend the coasts and India’s maritime trade, or carry up to 30 warplanes each in ‘strike mode’ against targets on land or at sea.