Aviation trials completed on aircraft carrier on White Sea

The Navy’s wait for its second aircraft carrier, 45,000-tonne Vikramaditya is likely to end soon as the warship has successfully completed all aviation trials in the White Sea, reports received from Russia said.

“The entire gamut of aviation trials was successfully completed on INS Vikramaditya…,” informed sources in the defence establishment here said on Tuesday.

A team of 20 officers of the Indian Navy were on board the warship — a retrofitted Russian carrier formerly named Admiral Gorshkov — for observation as fighter jets, flown by the Russian pilots, landed and took off from the deck and performed all other exercises, like touch-and-go, and flight profiles.

The sea trials were completed in July when the ship achieved its top speed of 32 knots. INS Vikramaditya would now head for the Sevmash shipyard for getting the finishing touches and a fresh coat of special paint before its delivery to the Indian Navy in mid-November, the sources said adding, “With the completion of aviation trials, all acceptance parameters… have been accomplished.”

INS Vikramaditya was to have been delivered five years ago. The extensively refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier had sailed out of the shipyard for its first comprehensive sea trials in the summer of 2012. MiG-29K fighter jets successfully completed take-offs and landings on its deck. The crew tested the aircraft carrier for its top speed, but it did not go beyond 30 knots because boiler insulation frayed in extreme temperatures. It took several months to fix the glitch and send the vessel for sea trials again.

The 284-metre-long and 60-metre-high Vikramaditya, which can easily carry 30 fighter jets and helicopters, is fitted with latest communication systems, protective coating, a telephone exchange, pumps, hygiene and galley equipment, lifts and many more facilities. At any given time, there will be a 2,000-strong staff on the carrier, which has an extended flight deck and a full runway with a ski jump and arrestor wires.

As India’s requirements grew and the shipyard failed to meet the schedules, the price of the retrofit soared. It is estimated that the final cost would have gone up to $2.3 billion from $947 million India paid to buy Admiral Gorshkov in 2005, before renaming it and sending it to the Russian shipyard for refitting.

The Navy now operates INS Viraat. India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, is being built by the Cochin Shipyard, and it is likely to be ready for commissioning in 2017-18.

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