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Delivery of Russian aircraft carrier to India could be indefinitely delayed

Delivery of Russian aircraft carrier to India could be indefinitely delayed 19.11.2007
The delivery of a Russian aircraft carrier that the Indian Navy has purchased for $1.5 billion could be indefinitely delayed, to go by a reply tabled in India parliament Monday.

«The overall progress of repair and re-equipping of the ship, ex-Admiral Gorshkov, in Russia is slow», India Defense Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Russia has attributed the delays to «growth of work», Antony said, adding that a «revised master schedule indicating a delay in the project» had been submitted.

The ship, re-christened INS Vikramaditya, was originally to have been delivered in late 2007 or early 2008. However, two developments at the Russian shipyard where the vessel is being refurbished made it apparent that the delivery would not be before 2010-11.

The first was the realization that the work involved in refurbishment had been grossly underestimated and much more would require to be done before the ship was made seaworthy.

The second was that the shipyard had transferred the bulk of the workforce engaged on the carrier to a new nuclear-powered submarine it has begun constructing.

Antony's reply Monday is a clear indication that the delivery could be delayed even beyond 2010-11.

«In order to supervise the project for repair and re-equipping of the aircraft carrier, an apex level committee under the defense secretary and a steering committee under a Vice Admiral have been set up», Antony said.

These committees, an official said, would take at least a year to complete their work.

«Thereafter, there would be protracted negotiations on the price of the additional work to perform. Given the lumbering manner in which the Indian and Russian bureaucracies function, that could take another year», the official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

This apart, the Russian demand for the entire payment to be made in euros because of the depreciating dollar has yet to be addressed.

«The refurbishment work on the carrier can begin only after all these issues are resolved and even then, fresh obstacles could arise. So, it would be difficult to say if the ship will arrive by 2010-11», the official pointed out.

Antony had raised the issue during his visit to Moscow last month both at his meeting with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and at the seventh meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC) that the two ministers co-chaired.

The Gorshkov, in fact, has been mired in controversy almost from the time she was commissioned into the then Soviet Navy in 1987.

Gorshkov, earlier called the Baku, was the last of four Soviet carriers built at the height of the Cold War and become operational in 1986. However, her career was cut short when a devastating fire crippled the vessel in 1994. Although repaired, Gorshkov never saw operational service in the Russian Navy and was finally mothballed in 1996.

After protracted negotiations, India signed a deal with Russia on Jan 20, 2004 to buy the Gorshkov, along with 12 single-seat MiG-29 fighters and four twin-seat MiG-29 trainers.

Of the contracted amount, approximately $800 million was to be spent on upgrading and refitting the ship and $700 million on the 16 MiG-29 jets and six Kamov Ka-31 attack and reconnaissance anti-submarine helicopters.

By Calcutta News.Net

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