The newly refurbished INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier took to the sea for the first time on Friday.

The carrier sailed out for crucial pre-delivery trials in the early hours of June 8 from the berth of the Sevmash shipyard in Russia’s northern city of Severodvinsk, where the former Soviet heavy aviation cruiser Gorshkov had been converted into a regular aircraft carrier christened Vikramaditya.

During the trials, scheduled to last 120 days, all the ship’s systems will be tested.

“The main part of the trials is testing aircraft takeoff and landing,” Sevmash chief Andrei Dyachkov told The Hindu. “The programme of tests is very tight as deck aviation can operate only from June to September in the harsh conditions of Arctic seas.”

The test flights will be carried out using two Russian aircraft, MiG-29K and MiG-35, flown by Russian pilots. Russia last year delivered to the Indian Navy 12 MiG-29K single-seaters and 4 MiG-29KUB two-seaters, which will be based on the Vikramaditya. India has ordered another batch of 29 MiG-29K deck fighters that will also provide airpower for the Vikrant aircraft carrier being built in India.

A part of the Indian crew of the Vikramaditya, who have just completed training in Russia, have joined the Russian team for the carrier’s first sea voyage; more Indian sailors will fly in from India for the trials later, bringing the total naval personnel on board to 2,700, almost double the ship’s regular crew.

If all goes well, an Indian acceptance team will board the carrier at later stages of the sea trials. Upon completion of the tests the Vikramaditya will return to port to allow finishing touches to be made before delivery in December.

“We are confident we can keep the schedule and hand over the ship to India on December 4,” Mr Dyachkov said.