NEW DELHI, July 28;India’s second aircraft carrier, the 45,000-ton INS Vikramaditya — a retrofitted Russian carrier formerly named Admiral Gorshkov dating back to the 1980s — has successfully completed sea trial of achieving top speed of 32 knots, reports received from Russia said on Sunday.
It will now head for the White Sea where aviation trials will be conducted, informed sources said. INS Vikramaditya was supposed to be delivered five years ago but the Indian Navy is likely to receive it by this year end.
The extensively modernised Soviet-era carrier had set sail from the Sevmash shipyard for its first comprehensive sea trials in the summer of 2012. Russian MiG-29K fighter pilots had successfully completed take-offs and landings on its deck. The crew tested the aircraft carrier for its top speed but it simply stopped at 30 knots. It turned out that the boilers needed better insulation which had given way due to the extreme temperatures. It took several months to fix the glitch and send the vessel for sea trials again, sources said.
The aircraft carrier, which can easily hold about 30 fighters and helicopters, will now go for aviation trials. “Touch and go exercises by fighters and various other flight profiles will also being undertaken”, officials said.
The towering 45,300-tonne, 284 metre-long and 60 metre-tall INS Vikramaditya is fitted with modern communication systems, a protective coating, a telephone exchange, pumps, hygiene and galley equipment, lifts and many more facilities. Officials said that at any given time, there would be a 2000-strong staff on the completely remodelled aircraft carrier which has an extended flight deck and a full runway with a ski jump and arrestor wires. The vessel has new engines, new boilers, new generators, electrical machinery, communication systems and distillation plants.
As India’s requirements grew and the shipyard lagged behind in adhering to various schedules, the price of retrofit soared. It is estimated that the final cost would have gone up to around $ 2.3 billion. India had bought Admiral Gorshkov in 2005 for $ 947 million, renamed it Vikramaditya and given to the Russian shipyard for refitting it and turning it into a modern aircraft carrier.
India has taken upon itself to build two more aircraft carriers on its own. The first, the 40,000-ton Vikrant is likely to be ready by 2018 and the second, a 65,000-ton Vishal will be due sometime in 2025.
India’s main rival at sea, China, has already carried out flight tests from its carrier Liaoning, another reason why the Indian Navy would not like to suffer any more delay in getting INS Vikramaditya.