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Indian Media: Russia Can Be Penalized for Postponed Delivery of INS Vikramaditya

Indian Media: Russia Can Be Penalized for Postponed Delivery of INS Vikramaditya 04.10.2012
Text: News Bharati
Photo: Vzglyad
India will strongly take up with Russia the delay in delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov, asking it to deploy additional manpower to ensure the warship's "refit" is completed within 67 months.

Defence minister A. K. Antony will stress this to his visiting Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov during the 12th meeting of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) coming on Thursday, said sources.

The delivery of the already much-delayed Vikramaditya was to take place on December 9, as per the re-revised timeline, but crippling engine-boiler malfunctions during sea trials have put paid to the plan. It has been a double whammy for Indian Navy as far as its long-standing ambition to deploy two operational carrier battle groups (CBGs) by 2015 was concerned. First, delivery schedule of the 40,000-ton indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at Cochin Shipyard was pushed back to 2018.

And now, it's certain the 44,570-tonne Vikramaditya will not be ready for induction anytime before end-2013 at the earliest. So, India will have to soldier on with its solitary carrier, the over 50-year-old 28,000-ton INS Viraat, for the foreseeable future.

"We will tell the Russians to seriously step up the workforce at the Sevmash shipyard for the refit-repair of Vikramaditya. A leeway of three to four months is provided in the contract after the December delivery date... Beyond that, penalty clauses and liquidity damages could kick in", said a source.

India has already paid $2.33 billion for Vikramaditya's refit, instead of the original $974 million earmarked in the January 2004 contract under which the carrier was to be delivered by August, 2008. New Delhi is spending another $2 billion to induct 45 Russian MiG-29K naval fighters to operate from the decks of Vikramaditya and IAC.

During the delegation-level talks on Thursday, India and Russia will also discuss ongoing projects for 272 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and 1,657 T-90S main battle tanks. While IAF has so far inducted 160 Sukhois towards getting all 272 by 2018 at a cost of over $12 billion, transfer of technology (ToT) problems continue to plague the T-90S tanks.

India had first ordered 310 tanks for Rs 3,625 crore in 2001, then another 347 for Rs 4,900 crore in 2007. But indigenous manufacture of another 1,000 T-90S tanks has been painfully slow, with the army having just about 710 of the tanks so far.

A source told a news agency: "A state commission has concluded it was necessary to extend the handover date to fall 2013 due to the need to fix all the faults found, including the insulation of the ship's boilers".

The source of the problem, which reduced the ship's maximum speed from a design 29 knots to just 27.9 knots, was due to use of low-grade Chinese-made firebricks in the boiler insulation instead of asbestos, he said. Last week, the Chinese Defense Minister Yan Yujun flatly denied any such locally-made firebricks had been exported to Russia, it was reported.

Another view on the situation was given in The Hindu online newspaper. After the ship returned to the Sevmash shipyard a week ago, the Indian Navys overseeing team, which closely monitored the trials, concluded that overall it had done extremely well and the programme of tests was largely fulfilled.

The results of the trials were analysed and the remaining work was detailed in a protocol signed by Vice Admiral Nadella Niranjan Kumar, Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition (CWPA).

The main conclusion is that INS Vikramaditya has stood the test as a full-fledged, highly capable aircraft carrier, converted from the former hybrid missile-cum-aviation cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. The ship displayed excellent seaworthiness and manoeuvrability, and performed flawlessly during aircraft take-off and landing. Its sophisticated radio-electronic, navigation and other systems demonstrated high efficiency and reliability.

The malfunctioning of boilers that occurred during high-speed tests will not require their replacement or removal. The problem has been pinned down to the insulation lining between the boiler steel casing and ceramic firebricks. Traditional asbestos lining was not used at the request of Indian specialists and the replacement material developed slight deformation when the boilers were run at full power, causing some firebricks to fall out. The Indian side has now agreed to the use of asbestos cardboard.

The boiler problem did not prevent INS Vikramaditya from completing the trials. Informed sources told The Hindu that Indian Navy officers were particularly impressed with the flight programme. A MiG-29K and a MiG-29KUB 4++ generation fighter performed 41 impeccable take-offs and landings with full arms payload and additional fuel tanks. The combination of Russia and India-made optical and electronic landing systems enabled the Russian pilots, in 70 per cent of the landings, to hook the second out of three arrestor wires. This is considered a perfect result, according to the sources.

The 44-tonne vessel also displayed superior manoeuvrability, performing a 360-degree turn at a minimum radius equal to one-and-a-half hull length at 18 knots.

Apart from the boilers, defects were detected in refrigerators, nitrogen generators and compressors sourced from German, British, Polish and Indian suppliers who had been picked by the Indian side.

Russian shipbuilders promised India that they would complete all repairs by the beginning of next year, but as pre-delivery trials in the White Sea could resume only in late May, when sea ice melts away, Vikramaditya would be handed over to the Indian Navy next autumn instead of this December, the sources said.

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