Monday, November 26, 2012

India to get Soviet-era aircraft carrier in 2013


India on Monday said long-time ally Russia would finally hand over a refurbished aircraft carrier next year and end a bitter dispute over the Soviet-era warship caused by rising costs and delays.

The Admiral Gorshkov, now 30 years old, is to fill a vacuum left by the scrapping in 1997 of India's first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which had been in service since 1961.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament that the end of 2013 has been set as the latest date for the delivery of the 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier, renamed INS Vikramaditya by India.

"The delivery of Vikramaditya has been delayed to the last quarter of 2013 against the envisaged delivery schedule of December 2012," Antony told parliament's lower house in a statement.

The Indian navy currently has only one operational aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, which is to be phased out. It is also planning to build one locally.

Moscow accounts for 70 per cent of Indian arms supplies but late deliveries and commercial disagreements have led New Delhi to use other suppliers such as Israel, Britain, France and the United States.

The original delivery date was August 2008, he said, and added its price tag was fixed at $978.4 million in 2004 when the deal was signed but it was "revised" to $2.3 billion for delivery in 2012.

"The total cost of the project will remain at $2.3 billion at the time of delivery in the last quarter of 2013," he assured parliament and added technical glitches during trials in the year led to the delay.

The warship required new turbines, boilers, 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) of cabling and reinforcement of its flight deck as part of the deal between India and Russian defence export firm Rosoboronexport.

Under the contract Russian shipyard Sevmash has equipped the vessel with modern weapons, 16 MiG-29 fighter jets and a fleet of anti-submarine helicopters.

The shipyard has insisted the dramatic rise in the cost is mainly due to Indian demands for features not included in the original contract.

Russia last December handed over the 8,140-tonne nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India following more than two years of delays.