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RUSSIA ASKS FOR CARRIER CHANGES

RUSSIA ASKS FOR CARRIER CHANGES
By Bulbul Singh

08 Aug 07. Russia has informed India that it cannot deliver the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshokov, undergoing refit in Russia as per scheduled. Moscow has even demanded an increase in price over the contracted price. The increase in price of Admiral Gorshokov comes in the wake of Moscow demanding renegotiation of defence contracts under negotiation and some already negotiated. The Russians have demanded an increase in the price of SU-30 MKI and even the kits to be made available to state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. for license production of SU-30 MKI in India.

Indian defence ministry has been told that there has been a delay in the refit of the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshokov and the aircraft carrier will not be able to be delivered by delivery deadline of early 2008, said a diplomat of the Russian Embassy in India. Indian defence ministry officials refused to comment on the receipt of such an intimation but sources said, the delivery of the aircraft carrier will be delayed by over two years. The $1.5bn Admiral Gorshokov modernization contract was signed in 2004. The warship is being overhauled at Sevmashpredpriyatiye in Severodvinsk. Sources in the Indian Navy said, the delay is because of underestimation of the length of the cabling required at the Russian shipyard; Indian Navy engineers have arrived in Russia. The aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshokov is being given free by Russia but India will have to pay for the upgrade. The upgraded aircraft carrier will carry 34 aircraft including, 21 MiG- 29 K and 13 Kamov KA-32 ASW helicopters and Ka–31-T AEW helicopters.

The changes in the carrier would enable Sea Harriers and Sea King helicopters from INS Viraat, the aircraft carrier currently in operation with the Indian Navy, to operate from Admiral Gorshokov. In addition, modifications would include fitting a 14 degree ski jump on the carrier which would allow the ship to operate as a Short Take Off but Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) carrier that is similar to the Admiral Kuznetsov of the Russian Navy.

The weapons modernization programme includes anti-air anti-submarine and electronic warfare system packages. The close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapon suite will be increased with several KASTHAN gun/missile systems. The electronic warfare package would include advanced ECM resistant, communication package that includes Electronic Counter–Counter Measures capabilities. The weapons to be mounted include the R-77 air to air missiles, air-to-surface missile Ch29T, TV guided missiles, Ch 31A/P, anti-ship and anti-radar missiles P-55 Bazalt, the command centre is nuclear.

The aircraft carrier will be fitted with armament including 12 VLS (Vertical Launch System) P-55/SS-N-19 Granit/ship surface-to-surface missile, 24 Kinzhal Vertical Launch Systems, 8 CIWS. The existing 200,000bhp power plant on eight high pressure boilers and four geared turbines are to be retained. The carrier will be fitted with Phazotron’s Zhuk-M radar which is a derivative of the baseline Zhuk radar.

Sources in the Indian Navy said, the Russians are demanding at least another $400m for the upgrade over and above the negotiated price. Such a sharp increase in price can take several months as it will have to go through various levels of the decision making process. “Delay is inevitable,” said sources. Indian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, is due to retire from service in 2012.

The Indian navy plans to have three aircraft carriers at sea by 2017 which includes the homegrown Air Defence Ship currently under construction at Cochin Shipyard, and the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshokov which is to be named INS Vikramaditya when commissioned in the Indian Navy.

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