INS Vikramaditya has failed sea trials and its delivery to the Indian Navy may be again delayed by almost a year, Russian media reported citing defence and industry sources.
Seven out of the aircraft carrier’s eight steam boilers broke down when they were run at maximum power to enable the ship develop its top rated speed of 30 knots, an unnamed official of the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport told the Kommersant daily.
The official explained that the firebrick insulation of the boilers crumbled under impact of high temperatures.
Sources in the shipbuilding industry told the Kommersant that the boilers will have to be removed for inspection or replacement through cuts to be made in the Vikramaditya’s hull. Replacing the boilers will cost Russian shipbuilders more than one billion roubles (over $30 million), the sources said.
The propulsion system failure will push back the ship’s delivery from December this year to October next year “at the earliest,” according to Russian sources, as repairs can only start next spring because of harsh winter conditions in the Arctic seaport of Severodvinsk, where the ship has been retrofitted.
However, a designer of the boilers rubbished the report. He said the repairs would take three-four months because was no need either to replace the boilers or to take them out.
“All that needs to be done is to replace the firebricks without dismantling the boilers,” Vasily Kukin, deputy head of a specialised boiler design bureau, told the Interfax wire.
The designer explained that the Indian side had objected to the use of asbestos in the insulation of the boilers because of feared health hazards and the manufacturer used other material which turned out to be sub-quality.
The mishap comes as is a major embarrassment for President Vladimir Putin as he prepares to pay an official visit to India next month.
Under the 2004 original contract for the remodelling of the heavy aviation cruiser Admiral Gorshkov into a light aircraft carrier the Vikramaditya was to be handed over to the Indian Navy in 2008, but the delivery has been delayed as the vessel’s conditions turned out to be much worse than expected and the cost of refurbishment escalated from just over $600 million to more than $2 billion.