One of the largest and most important export contracts for Russian defense industry – repair and retrofitting of ex-Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov for Indian Navy – is reaching the final straight. The ship is going to start sea trials in the coming fall, Indian crewmen are being trained, and partners say all financial problems and discords have been settled. Chief Engineer of Sevmash Shipyard Alexei V. Alsufiev told about the course of works in the interview to Central Navy Portal at the 5th International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg.
Alexei Alsufiev, Sevmash Shipyard, Chief Engineer (at the right) and Sergei Bogatov, Central Navy Portal, Editor-in-Chief
– Alexei Vladimirovich, we congratulate you and the shipyard on successful launch of SLBM Bulava from standard platform – SSBN Yury Dolgoruky. This is undoubtedly a significant achievement of Russian shipbuilders. Nevertheless, today we'd like to talk about another Sevmash's significant contract. Could you tell how things progress with refitting of Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya?
– Thank you for congratulations, we really did our best to make the launch successful. Speaking of Indian carrier, contractual commitments say the main objective for 2011 is to start first phase of sea trials. To prepare the ship for them, we need to carry out mooring trials, test main propulsion plant, ship's basic systems and mechanisms providing safe operation at sea. At present, assembling of general systems and main propulsion plant has been finished, and mooring trials are in progress. In the nearest time we plan to test main propulsion plant with external steam source, align basic turbo-mechanisms, flush through and adjust systems responsible for propulsion. Cables have been dragged through almost completely. Along with our contractors from SPO Arktika, we connect electric equipment and assemble radioelectronics of navigational system, tactical data system, and radar systems.
– Are you on schedule?
– The shipyard's sea trial plan for 2012 will be drawn in accordance with general schedule and presented in graph form somewhat in September. At the same time we expect arrival of inspection from Indian Navy Joint Staff which will check the course of works. Nobody has postponed the ship's delivery term – December 2012 – and we will do whatever necessary to meet the schedule. This is common goal for our workers, designers, and all contractors who carry out refitting works.
– Reportedly, after the first phase of sea trials the ship will be docked in Roslyakovo. Is that true?
– Dockage is routine operation which is not dominant in the general course of works. Of course, it is important for repair and refitting process, but it doesn't matter when it happens within the general schedule terms – either before sea trials or after them. According to the contract, we should complete the ship's dockage before all sea trials are finished, but they will go on in 2012. Perhaps, it seems not quite logical from the orderer's viewpoint. It would be better to complete all sea trials and then dock the ship to demonstrate the hull's underwater part and to paint it if needed, to show screw-rudder system and its post-trial state, underwater outboard fittings and so on. Everything must comply with the orderer's demands, and he must assure himself of that. After trials, the carrier will head for India. As was agreed in the contract, Indian Navy will take full possession of the ship in 12 months after delivery. Then it will be up to Indian party to decide when to conduct first dock inspection and dock overhaul. But take note, it must be done within the first five years of the ship's service. So, the later the ship will be docked in Russia, the shorter inter-dockage period would be. But again, this is an open issue and it will be coordinated with designers and Indian partners.
Model of INS Vikramaditya at IMDS-2011
– Was it the wish of Indian party that the ship is going to start sea trials late in autumn and then return for outfitting?
– The shipyard has a right to set dates for such routine events within terms of the general schedule as agreed upon with Indian partners. They take intelligently everything done for the good and to speed up the process even though some works have to be combined or switched. Indian technical experts are involved in the same manner as ours, and they see that we reschedule just in order to make the work more effective. We agree upon all these working issues with Indian partners if the situation needs.
– Have you overcome initial difficulties of work with Indian party or some mutual misunderstanding still remains?
– Actually, we didn't have any serious misconceptions in the working process at all. Indian observers working at Sevmash are highly qualified engineers and officers. All of them (45 men) used to serve in Indian Navy and are experienced in aircraft carriers. They are mechanical engineers, electricians, hull specialists – all are very skilled experts, so we've had no problems with work on the ship. Indeed, there were some questions regarding scope of additional works and extra price. As of today, all of them are settled, and all contractual documents were signed on March 12, 2010. We have approved work schedule and we're keeping to it.
– As is known, the ship will be equipped with great portion of Indian equipment. Are there any technical problems with assembling?
– Certainly, one cannot do without such problems. As you know, ships of such size and class are not repaired and refitted very often. Design bureau, the shipyard, and Indian party are resolving such technical problems together. Indeed, the ship will have very much equipment made in India and other countries. For instance, York refrigerating machines, Wartsila diesels, and so forth. The full list was set by the projector – Nevskoye Design Bureau. Sevmash have purchased equipment and installed in the ship. Presently, we assemble systems providing normal operation of that equipment, and start adjustment works. All specialists of manufacturing companies whose presence is needed for start-up and alignment of purchased equipment arrive at the shipyard and perform adjustment operations. Such technical problems will appear right up to the ship's delivery, I make no bones about it. But they will be discussed and resolved with participation of Indian party if needed, it's all right.
– What is approximate volume of Indian-made radioelectronics in the ship?
– First, communications system. Second, data transfer system responsible for information exchange with other ships. Aircraft carrier is a center of strike group which needs to share data with aircrafts and escort ships. Data communications equipment, local informational system, i.e. a computer network helping to arrange communications inside the ship are Indian-made too. This list also includes a number of systems providing personnel's work, in particular, onboard automatic telephone system with terminals installed in all cabins and battle stations. Indian radioelectronics experts work at the shipyard and align their equipment, and then will participate in the ship's trials along with trial team.
– Has Indian crew already started training?
– Yes. In accordance with Russia's contractual commitments, Indian crew started training in March 2011. Total manpower is 1 924 men, including 677 men from air wing, i.e. pilots and air-technical personnel. As of today, about 150 officers and enlisted crewmen are already in Russia. Primary training (2-4 months) is held in St. Petersburg on the basis of Russian Navy's academies. Then come two months of practical training in Severodvinsk directly on the ship. The first 120-men group is currently in Severodvinsk and will complete training in July. Totally, 1 401 crewmen will be trained since March 2011 till second half of 2012. The training process will be crowned with large-scale shipborne practice. As stated in contract, future crewmen will pass inshore practice, then – practice on moored ship in the second half of 2012, and after that they will spend about a month at sea along with Russian crew and Russian trial team. All those things are stated in the contract.
– So, Indian crew will take the sea in the fall of 2012?
– Exactly. In mid-2012 over 700 Indian crewmen will have to pass a short-term course in damage control, fire prevention, and flooding resistance at simulators of White Sea Naval Base. Then they will start shipboard practice. First – inshore practice, and then in the second half of 2012 – sea practice.
– What about the ship's commanding officer?
– We haven't been informed on that so far. I suppose, he will be appointed soon, although there's no official information yet. As of today, the highest rank aboard the carrier is director of observation group from Indian Navy's Joint Staff Rajaran Svaminatan.