Indian carrier sea trials in the Barents Sea, 31-years old, 5-years late

The INS Vikramaditya is modified Kiev class aircraft carrier, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov (and the Baku before that), launched by the Soviet Navy in 1982 and purchased by India in 2004 for $2.35 billion. Initially planned to enter Indian service in 2008, delivery has been plagued by delay after delay after delay. Russia now plans to hand over the carrier in October (or November… or December…) this year.

Even when handed over, it remains to be seen just how long the Indian Navy will manage to operate an aging, secondhand carrier (keel laid 1978! launched 1982!) before realizing that it’s time to look for a slightly newer replacement. If India sees itself as a (potentially) global superpower with aspirations to challenge Chinese hegemony, then a credible navy is essential. The Vikramaditya is scarcely that.

Smoke on the water – Indian carrier sails Barents

The scandalous long-await rebuilt Soviet aircraft carrier “INS Vikramaditya” steams towards the Barents Sea for what Russia hopes will be final sea trails before New Delhi takes over the steer.

The huge aircraft carrier sails out of Severodvinsk where she has been for repair since the boilers onboard suffered severe problems during last summer’s sea trails in the Barents Sea. The aircraft carrier now sails northbound the White Sea, heading for the areas outside the entrance to the Kola Bay in the Barents Sea where the Russian Northern fleet normally has its exercises.

“INS Vikramaditya” will over the next two months be put through stringent tests, hopefully with better results than last summer. If all goes well, the Indian flag will be hoisted by early autumn and the vessel will sail towards India. Last summer’s failure was when the fire-brick lining made of ceramic in the boilers was damaged when the vessel hit top speed of 30 knots. The Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk now assures that the problems are fixed.

Originally, “INS Vikramaditya” was supposed to be delivered in 2008 and the (so far) six years delay is seen as an embarrassing torn in Indian, Russian military hardware cooperation.

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