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VEDANTA MASS MEDIAAdmiral Gorshkov - The Aircraft Carrier and its chequered career  







               Admiral Gorshkov

               The Aircraft Carrier and its chequered career

               By Ilya Kramnik





      Moscow. The last Soviet Project 1143 cruiser carrier, named Baku, joined the navy in 1987, shortly before the breakup of the Soviet Union and the closing of its vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) programme. But when Yak-38 VTOL planes were decommissioned, the early Project 1143 ships were also quickly phased out of the navy.


      The Baku, by that time renamed Admiral Gorshkov, was looked to carry on as a helicopter carrier, but cuts in military spending and an accident on board put it in for repairs that were never completed.


      In 1994, it was rumoured that the ship might be sold to India. In 2000, the two countries came to an agreement, but the terms of the contract were not agreed and the document was not signed until 2004. The hope was that by 2008 India would get an upgraded vessel and an air wing of MiG-29K fighters for a price of $700 million.


      The aircraft carrier was then named Vikramaditya by the Indian Navy.


      Under a modernisation plan, the 48,000-tonne air-capable cruiser was to be fitted with an unobstructed flight deck, aircraft lifts capable of handling MiG-29s, an upgraded air-defence system, and new electronics. Also, the Vikramaditya was to be stripped of its Bazalt missile system and deck-mounted 100mm Gatling guns.

The refitting work started in 2000, but by 2007 it had become clear that deadlines could not be kept - the Russian side pleaded wrong costing and pricing. The blame was put on Vladimir Pastukhov, Sevmash General Director. He was fired, everybody said, for failing to fulfil the Indian order. The commissioning deadline had to be moved to 2011.


      The situation was compounded by further scandals when India refused to accept a modernised Project 877 Kilo class submarine and an Il-38 aircraft for alleged shortcomings in their upgradation programme. All this also threatened to damage relations between the two countries in military-technical cooperation.


      Rumours spread that the Gorshkov might be returned to the Russian navy, but official sources said new prices and new schedules were under consideration. The results were never made public, but, according to reliable sources, the two sides agreed to move the delivery deadline to 2010 and increase the costs, keeping in mind also a weak dollar and steep prices.


      Apart from unofficial sources, news that deck-based MiG-29Ks will be delivered to India next year is a good indicator that the contract is alive.


      At the end of July 2008, reports appeared in the media the first batch of 12 single-seat fighters and four two-seat trainers will be shipped in 2009.


      Indian sources also say India intends to increase the number of MiGs it will buy. An option for 30 planes is provided for in the contract, and a decision to exercise the option could be taken in 2008. In that case, the overall quantity could grow to 46-50 units, enough not only for the Vikramaditya, but also for the India's indigenous carrier, expected to be operational by 2015.


      It must be said that delays in the carrier's commissioning have been largely due to the state of Russian industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


      Inadequate production facilities, wear and tear of capital assets, and the loss of many skilled workers to other industries and countries, combined with a lack of experience, led Sevmash to wrongly calculate the project's costs and timetable.


      To fulfil the project, Sevmash has recruited workers and engineers from across Russia and abandoned several other projects, including a floating nuclear plant, which is expected to be shifted to the Baltic yards in St Petersburg. The Gorshkov project is seen by many as a test of Sevmash's ability to build aircraft carriers, and its success will be of key importance in deciding whether the shipyard will be chosen to build advanced carriers for Russia.


      As for the Vikramaditya, according to information available here, the main hull work is already done, with new equipment being installed and interior re-planning under way. It is to be hoped that the new schedule will be observed and the former Admiral Gorshkov will put to sea again, though under the Indian flag.


      Here it is worth considering the ship's capabilities in the light of its known characteristics:


      Its displacement remains the same, or 38,000 tonnes light, 48,000 tonnes standard, and 53,000 tonnes full. The flight deck is 273 metres long. The carrier will have a complement of 16 MiG-29 fighters and six Ka-28/Ka-31 helicopters.


      Plans also exist to use HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Dhruv light helicopters (naval versions). Apart from the aircraft, the ship will carry Kashtan sea-to-air missile and a gun systems for self-defence.

A "ski jump" ramp is provided for take-off as required by the Indian Navy.


      Like any other carrier, the Vikramaditya will be used within a task group of surface ships. The best candidates for such groups are Russian-built Project 22356 frigates and upgraded Project 61 vessels supplied by the Soviet Union.


      With plans to install BrahMos missiles on its surface ships, India could form an effective and compact task force consisting of the aircraft carrier and three to six frigates with a variety of strike, anti-submarine and air-defence weapons.


      The carrier will provide long-range anti-aircraft protection. Backed by the other ships' sea-to-air missiles, MiG-29Ks could make life difficult even for any formidable navy deck wing, not to mention lesser opponents. The group's main mission could be achieved with missiles fired from the surface ships - three to six frigates are capable of launching several dozen supersonic anti-ship missiles hard to intercept by any air-defence system.

In the longer term, the Vikramaditya could accommodate fifth-generation planes, which the two countries plan to produce and induct by 2017, in its hangar. With such aircraft on board, the new carrier could remain in service well into the 2050s.


      (The author is RIA Novosti's military commentator. This report is produced by special arrangement with India Strategic).

      India Strategic






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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015






















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